Minneapolis residents will likely vote in November on whether to replace the city's Police Department, marking their most significant chance to weigh in on public safety issues since George Floyd's death.
The City Clerk's Office announced Friday that a new political committee called Yes 4 Minneapolis had gathered enough signatures to place a proposal on the November ballot. The group wants voters to approve a plan to create a new public safety department that could include police "if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department."
If voters sign off, Minneapolis would no longer be required to keep a police department with a minimum number of officers based on population. The mayor's "complete power" over police operations would be eliminated, granting the council more sway over officers.
The proposal — and others like it — have elicited strong, conflicting reactions in the city, and many expect the issue will be the centerpiece in the November elections.
Bystander video of Floyd's death, as he pleaded while pinned under a Minneapolis officer's knee last May, changed conversations about policing and public safety across the country.
In the days afterward, local activist groups like Black Visions called on city leaders to abolish the Police Department, and nine City Council members pledged to "begin the process of ending" it.
In the months since then, others have organized to ask city leaders to boost police staffing amid an increase in violent crime, or drafted new proposals to keep police but increase civilian oversight of them.
Last fall, Yes 4 Minneapolis registered as a new political committee in Hennepin County. The group describes itself as a Black-led campaign whose coalition includes members such as Black Visions, Reclaim the Block and Take Action Minnesota.
The committee got a boost from a $500,000 donation from the Washington, D.C.-based Open Society Policy Center, the lobbying arm of the Open Society Foundations, a philanthropic group founded by billionaire George Soros.
Earlier this year, Yes 4 Minneapolis began collecting signatures seeking to get its proposal on the November ballot. It needed 11,906 and submitted 25,530.
The City Clerk's Office cross-referenced those names against voter registration records and announced Friday morning that it determined 14,101 of them were valid.
"Our verification found the petition to have more than the requisite number of valid signatures," Jon Martin, an administrator in the city's elections division, said as he read the results Friday morning. "That means we find this petition to be sufficient under statute and, therefore, a valid petition."
A representative for Yes 4 Minneapolis didn't return messages Friday. On its Twitter account, the group struck a triumphant tone.
"WE DID IT!" the group wrote, adding: "This means we are one step closer to creating safety for ALL by creating a new Department of Public Safety in MPLS."
The proposal drew swift opposition from others. "The Yes4Mpls petition leads Minneapolis down a path to defund, deplete and ultimately abolish the MPD," said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
"That's the wrong path. Instead, we need to reform, rebuild and ultimately restore trust, accountability and confidence in policing in our City."
The Yes 4 Minneapolis proposal must undergo a review by the City Attorney's Office to confirm it is constitutional and doesn't conflict with other laws, but many in City Hall suspect that will be a formality. The office declined to take a public position Friday.
If the proposal passes the legal review, the mayor and City Council will then determine the wording that appears on the ballot, though they can't change the underlying proposal itself.
For the changes to take effect, 51% of voters weighing in on that question would need to approve the plan in the election. People who leave that portion of their ballot blank don't count toward the total.
If voters approve the plan, the mayor and City Council would need to write additional ordinances to flesh out the details of the new department. A presentation earlier this week provided insight into what some council members envision.
In a joint presentation, Council Members Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher and Jeremy Schroeder said they foresee a public safety department that combines services that are now spread across multiple city offices, such as violence prevention, 911 and emergency management.
The three have written a proposal similar to the one crafted by Yes 4 Minneapolis. Their proposal, though, says the new public safety department would have to include a law enforcement services division that employs officers.
Schroeder said this week that he was "amenable" to withdrawing their proposal.
Fletcher echoed that sentiment Friday, saying he expects they will withdraw theirs to avoid a scenario that could confuse voters. They'll likely wait, though, until after the City Attorney's Office completes its review of the Yes 4 Minneapolis proposal.
"We have seen enough procedural hiccups with this stuff over the last year that we, I think, are going to make sure the process gets followed all the way through," Fletcher said.
Cunningham didn't respond to a message Friday.
Withdrawing the council members' proposal would require a vote by the full City Council, according to the clerk's office.
What the Yes 4 Minneapolis proposal does
- Creates a public safety department focused on "a comprehensive public health approach to safety."
- Eliminates requirement to have a Police Department.
- Eliminates requirement to have a minimum number of officers based on population.
- Eliminates mayor's "complete power" over police operations, granting council more sway over officers.
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994