After a lengthy legal process about whether it would appear on the ballot, a high stakes gambit to eliminate the police department from the Minneapolis City Charter and replace it with an undefined alternative will be voted on by Minneapolis residents in November.
While the City Council, under court order, put clearer language on the ballot, there is still no underlying plan from proponents for what would replace the Minneapolis Police Department should it be eliminated.
A reasoned approach would be for the council, in partnership with the community, to develop a plan that can be implemented, then take a vote to change the charter, if necessary.
With no detailed plan for what comes next, too often proponents find themselves providing misleading information. One example, unfortunately, is U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who recently announced her support for City Question 2 on the Star Tribune opinion pages. In her piece she wrote: "It has nothing to do with funding levels, much less 'defunding' public safety in Minneapolis. There are no financial components of this amendment."
With due respect to Rep. Omar, that is not true. As reported by the Star Tribune, "the proposal, written by a political committee called Yes 4 Minneapolis, would remove the requirement for Minneapolis to fund a police department with a minimum number of officers based on the city's population."
The fact is that in June of 2020 the City Council majority stood up in Powderhorn Park and pledged to defund and abolish the police. Organizers at the time, who would later become the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, called it the beginning of creating a future without police.
For over a year this campaign made multiple statements of intent to defund and, ultimately, abolish the Minneapolis Police Department. The job descriptions on their website describe their "campaign to defund the Minneapolis Police Department and chart a new path for building a safe community."
The self-description of Reclaim the Block (a lead organizer in the Yes 4 Minneapolis Campaign) is "a campaign focused on defunding and dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department."
As recently as mid-July campaign leaders wrote a piece entitled, "No, Minneapolis did not defund the police. But we're not done trying," where they acknowledge that abolishing the police is "the long game."
Yet now, suddenly, they are changing their claims. Should we believe what they said then or what they are saying now?
All we know is that proponents of this "public safety" charter amendment are asking for Minneapolis voters to vote to eliminate from the charter the MPD, the position of the chief of police, and minimum funding and staffing requirements for the police, all with no alternative plan and to leave it up to the next City Council to figure it out. Minneapolis citizens deserve better.
All the while our communities are suffering from an epidemic of gun violence. Parents are afraid to let their kids play outside for fear of them becoming collateral damage to the violence on our streets. This year Minneapolis is on pace to match the most homicides on record.
The MPD requires serious reforms to many areas: In accountability, discipline, training and recruitment. We also need to do more to integrate other human service experts into our public safety system and do a better job addressing the root causes of crime. We need generational investments in community health, housing, employment and in our small businesses. We also need to do more work on violence prevention and helping ex-offenders reintegrate into our communities.
But none of this requires a charter amendment. The truth is that we need better police, not fewer or no police. And if we are asking residents to eliminate the police department, we should be open and up front about what the replacement is.
There is NO plan for what comes next.
Former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton was mayor of Minneapolis, 1994-2001. Mike Goze is CEO, American Indian Community Development Corporation. Robert Bruininks was president of the University of Minnesota, 2002-11. Doris Baylor is a North Side community leader. Sharon Smith-Akinsanya is CEO, Rae Mackenzie Group. Gloria Freeman is founder and CEO of Olu's Home and Olu's Center.