Minneapolis voters on Tues­day re­ject­ed a pro­pos­al to re­place the Minneapolis Police Department, crush­ing the hopes of sup­port­ers that out­rage over the kill­ing of George Floyd would lead to a his­tor­ic ex­per­i­ment in trans­form­ing public safe­ty.

The fi­nal votes end­ed a con­ten­tious and close­ly watched e­lec­tion cy­cle cen­tered on how far the city would go to reinvent polic­ing, 18 months af­ter Floyd was filmed plead­ing for breath un­der an of­fi­cer's knee. Since then, a city al­read­y bat­tered by a glo­bal pan­dem­ic was the site of the worst ur­ban riots in three de­cades, a surge in vi­o­lent crime and a wrench­ing tri­al that re­sul­ted in mur­der con­vic­tions for the first of­fi­cer tried in Floyd's death.

In the days lead­ing up to a his­tor­ic e­lec­tion, voters were blan­ket­ed with mes­sages from po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tees that had mil­lions to spend as they at­tempt­ed to sway peo­ple to vote for or against a meas­ure seek­ing to re­place the Minneapolis Police Department with a new a­gen­cy fo­cused on al­ter­na­tive re­sponses to cri­ses.

While sup­port­ers in­sist­ed po­lice would still be part of the de­part­ment, op­po­nents of the chart­er change ham­mered on themes that echoed in voters' rea­sons for say­ing no on ques­tion 2: Who's going to an­swer 911 calls? What's the plan for keep­ing the city safe?

Voters op­posed the a­mend­ment by a 12-point mar­gin, well short of the 51% need­ed to pass. The fail­ure of the bal­lot ques­tion came as one of its most out­spok­en op­po­nents, May­or Ja­cob Frey, held a com­mand­ing lead in his re-e­lec­tion bid. Voters also ap­proved a sepa­rate chart­er a­mend­ment that shift­ed more pow­er from the City Council to the may­or, and were poised to oust sev­er­al coun­cil mem­bers who led the push to re­place the po­lice de­part­ment.

Wynn Wever, who voted at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Longfellow, said the polic­ing ques­tion was the only part of the bal­lot he filled out. He voted no.

"I like the po­lice. We need the po­lice," said Wever, 79, a re­tired roof­er.

At Roo­se­velt High School, Kev­in Nelson said ques­tion 2 was the most im­port­ant is­sue to him. Nelson, a self-em­ployed wood­work­er, said calls to "de­fund the po­lice" sound­ed like a good i­de­a in the vol­a­tile times af­ter Floyd's mur­der.

But as time went by and de­tails were few, he turned against the i­de­a. "You're voting for what­ever they want to do," he said. "It's kind of like giv­ing them a free pass."

Still, there was hard­ly a con­sen­sus.

In the East Phil­lips neigh­bor­hood, res­i­dent Lin­nea Hadaway strong­ly fa­vored ques­tion 2.

"They've been talk­ing about po­lice re­form for 25 years and ab­so­lute­ly noth­ing has changed," Hadaway said. "And that's why I'm will­ing to take the risk."

The pro­pos­al be­fore voters would have amend­ed the city's chart­er, re­mov­ing the re­quire­ment to main­tain a Police Department with a min­i­mum num­ber of of­fic­ers based on pop­u­la­tion. In­stead, it would have cre­at­ed a Department of Public Safety that takes "a com­pre­hen­sive public health ap­proach to safe­ty." De­tails of the new de­part­ment, in­clud­ing po­lice staff­ing lev­els, if any, would have been de­ter­mined by the may­or and City Council mem­bers.

Can­di­dates run­ning in the first mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions since Floyd's death large­ly agreed that Minneapolis should boost men­tal health programs, in­crease so­cial ser­vices and seek to de­ter­mine which non­vi­o­lent calls could be han­dled by ci­vil­ians.

But they dis­agreed on one fun­da­men­tal ques­tion: wheth­er the city should re­place its Police Department with a new a­gen­cy in its ef­forts to take a broad­er ap­proach to public safe­ty.

Sup­port­ers ar­gued the pro­pos­al would have giv­en the city the flex­i­bil­i­ty to cre­ate a new safe­ty sys­tem that can bet­ter re­spond to resi­dents' con­cerns, with­out be­ing con­strained by the po­lice staff­ing lev­els add­ed to the city's chart­er dur­ing an­oth­er con­ten­tious e­lec­tion in the early 1960s.

The i­de­a of hav­ing a blank slate was ap­peal­ing to some voters.

"I think Minneapolis might be a re­al­ly good place to do a tri­al run on this," said Kingfield res­i­dent Ri­ley Curran, ex­plain­ing why he voted "yes" on ques­tion 2. "If any city is going to stick its toe in first and fig­ure it out, I trust Minneapolis to do it."

Op­po­nents ar­gued there wasn't en­ough de­tail to en­sure the new de­part­ment would de­liv­er the change resi­dents des­per­ate­ly need­ed.

"I think we need to do some chan­ges, may­be make some re­forms, but I do not be­lieve in a­bol­ish­ing it with­out hav­ing some­thing in place, and they've had a year to come up with some­thing oth­er than neb­u­lous, 'Oh, we're going to do this or that.' I ha­ven't been swayed," said one vot­er, Lin­da Ramson.

Ramson's re­marks were sim­i­lar to ones de­liv­ered just days be­fore by Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, whose 11th-hour news con­fer­ence in full u­ni­form prompt­ed the coun­cil pres­i­dent to file an eth­ics com­plaint ac­cus­ing him of mis­us­ing city re­sources.

"This is too criti­cal of a time to wish and hope for that help that we need so des­per­ate­ly right now," Arradondo said. "A­gain, I was not ex­pect­ing some sort of ro­bust, de­tailed, word-for-word plan. But at this point, quite frank­ly, I would take a draw­ing on a nap­kin, and I have not seen eith­er."

The failed bal­lot ques­tion, writ­ten by a group called Yes 4 Minneapolis, would have in­creased City Council o­ver­sight of the Police Department. Voters in­stead ap­proved a sepa­rate bal­lot ques­tion that reins in the coun­cil's a­bil­i­ty to give di­rec­tion to city staff and so­lidi­fies pow­er in the may­or's of­fice over most city de­part­ments.

The city's elect­ed lead­ers were deep­ly di­vid­ed on the ques­tion of how to change polic­ing. Near­ly two weeks af­ter Floyd's death, while the mem­ories of nights of un­rest were still fresh in resi­dents' minds, they be­gan ce­ment­ing their stan­ces.

Pro­test­ers shout­ed "shame, shame," at May­or Ja­cob Frey af­ter he told them he did "not sup­port the full ab­o­li­tion of the po­lice de­part­ment" but in­stead fa­vored sys­tem­ic chan­ges. He's been square­ly aligned with Arradondo.

The day af­ter that pro­test, nine City Council mem­bers gath­ered in Pow­der­horn Park and pledged to "be­gin the proc­ess of end­ing the Minneapolis Police Department," el­icit­ing strong sup­port from the ac­tiv­ists who or­gan­ized the e­vent and set­ting off a pan­ic in oth­er com­muni­ty groups who deep­ly op­posed the i­de­a.

Council mem­bers tried to get a sim­i­lar chart­er ques­tion on last year's bal­lot but were blocked by the court-ap­point­ed Minneapolis Charter Commission. Sup­port­ers ac­cused the com­mis­sion­ers of ob­struct­ing the demo­crat­ic proc­ess, while op­po­nents claimed they were doing the due dil­i­gence that coun­cil mem­bers had failed to pro­vide.

Since the pledge, many coun­cil mem­bers have soft­ened their rhet­o­ric, seek­ing to re­as­sure resi­dents that state law makes it dif­fi­cult to re­move po­lice, be­cause it says only of­fic­ers can re­spond to some calls. Many of them sup­port­ed the cam­paign to re­place the Minneapolis Police Department, as well as can­di­dates who back the ef­fort.

Tues­day's e­lec­tion gave resi­dents the chance to de­cide how the city should pro­ceed — but groups or­gan­iz­ing on both sides say it shouldn't end dis­cus­sions about how to over­haul polic­ing.

In­side the Gold Room down­town Tues­day night, a hand­ful of Yes 4 Minneapolis sup­port­ers gath­ered as they wait­ed for the re­sults. Corenia Smith, the group's cam­paign man­ag­er, said their work was not in vain. "We changed the con­ver­sa­tion," Smith said.

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of All of Mpls, a po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tee that op­posed the pro­pos­al, said mean­ing­ful work must be­gin now.

"What the voters of Minneapolis have made clear is that we want a planful ap­proach to trans­form­ing public safe­ty in our city," said Leili Fatehi, the group's cam­paign man­ag­er.

"It's re­al­ly time for all the resi­dents of Minneapolis to unite to­gether to hold the next may­or and City Council ac­count­a­ble, to roll up their sleeves and to car­ry out that public man­date in good faith."

Staff re­port­ers Patrick Con­don, John Reinan, James Walsh, David Joles, Matt Gillmer, Mark Vancleave, and Anthony Soufflé con­tri­buted to this re­port.