Minneapolis voters will not be voting this fall on a rushed and controversial plan to remove a requirement that the city maintain a police department. The city's Charter Commission voted 10-5 on Wednesday to take more time to study the plan, which means it will not meet the deadline to be placed on the 2020 ballot.
The charter amendment written by five City Council members would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention that would have emphasized a "holistic, public health-oriented approach" to public safety. The city could have included sworn officers, but it would not have been required to keep a force of a minimum size based on population, as it is now.
The Charter Commission made the right move. City officials, voters and other members of the public need additional time and more details about how a reimagined public safety department would work. As the Star Tribune Editorial Board has argued for years, the city and the MPD must make substantial changes to reimagine policing, root out bad officers and rebuild police-community relations. But Minneapolis needs law enforcement.
Even the five council members who authored the amendment acknowledged that fact when, in a late-hour attempt to sway Wednesday's vote, they wrote a letter assuring that the "transformed system" would "include law enforcement as part of a multifaceted approach to public safety."
Yet the guarantee would have been gone, and there was widespread confusion about the council's alternative vision and where it would leave a city struggling with gun violence and other public safety concerns.
In addition, Charter Commission member Jill Garcia was right to question whether the council's proposal would have solved the underlying problems that plague policing.
"This is an issue that involves the lives, the well-being, the safety of Minneapolis residents," Garcia said Wednesday. "This isn't a bumper-sticker slogan, sound-bite debate. This is something that the city has begun looking at in various times throughout the past several years. The ground is fertile to continue to look at that work and to look at something that prevents the loss of lives."
The charter change effort played out against a backdrop of rising violent crime in Minneapolis. Though total reported crimes were down 31% in June and 4% by July's end, gunfire incidents rose 224% and 166% during the same period, according to the MPD. As of July 25, at least 275 people had been shot in 2020, compared with 269 during all of 2019. Homicides have also nearly doubled from last year.
Following the death of George Floyd in police custody, citizens have rightly said "enough" while demanding overdue changes in policing. Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo want change to come, too, and they need the backing of the council and city residents.
The council should work with Frey and Arradondo — not against them — in reinventing the MPD. The community includes not only those who would "dismantle and defund" police, but citizens, business owners and others who have a stake in the state's largest city and believe a police presence is necessary to truly protect and serve.
This year's charter amendment effort is dead, but the effort to transform policing in Minneapolis is very much alive and has never been more critical.