Local advocates for police accountability want Minneapolis voters to create a new civilian commission to oversee police, removing power from the mayor and City Council.
Members of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar said they don't think current proposals to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a community safety department do enough to improve oversight of officers.
"If you talk to mothers and sisters and brothers and family members, they can tell you it's not enough to change the name or to remove the number of officers," said Sam Martinez, an organizer with the coalition. "It doesn't fix anything. It doesn't actually bring accountability."
Minneapolis has become a testing ground for proposals seeking to change the way cities approach policing in the wake of George Floyd's death.
Two other proposals are in the works to replace the city's Police Department with a new public safety department. Those have elicited strong reactions in the community. Supporters tend to argue the change is crucial because past reform efforts haven't worked, while others argue it is largely symbolic and does little to improve accountability.
Some activists who are skeptical of those proposals appear to be more open to the idea of creating a civilian-led commission.
"I don't think the City Council has done a great job with what they do control, so I'm not eager to give them more control," said Michelle Gross, found of Communities United Against Police Brutality. "I think this is much more transparency, and it's more directly accountable to the community."
Many in City Hall are just learning of the proposal. Mayor Jacob Frey's office said he "is not supportive of this initiative." Reached Wednesday night, Council Member Phillipe Cunningham, a key author of one of the council's proposals, said it was the first time he was hearing of it.
Unlike two other proposals, which seek to create a new public safety department, the coalition's plan would keep the police department. It would remove the requirement to keep a minimum number of police officers based on the city's population.
Martinez doesn't think their plan will make the November ballot, though they are planning to start gathering signatures soon.
The coalition formed after the 2015 death of Jamar Clark, whose fatal shooting by Minneapolis police sparked weeks of protests and calls for change throughout the city.
The group's proposal would amend the city charter to create a new Civilian Police Accountability Commission that would develop rules and regulations for the police department, investigate complaints and use-of-force incidents, analyze patterns of police behavior and suggest policy changes. The commission would have "power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department" and the authority to discipline police, including the chief.
The commission would have 13 elected members who must have at least two years of experience protecting civil rights, or be a survivor of police misconduct or a relative of someone killed by police. Martinez said they are updating the proposal to exclude people who work in law enforcement.
Some details of the commissioners' jobs, such as whether they would be full time or part time, and salary rates would be established in separate ordinances.
"We want it to be democratic. We want it to be representative," Martinez said. "The mayor being responsible, the City Council being responsible, it hasn't worked."
While Martinez said they are talking to some city officials about the plan, the coalition is hoping to gather signatures to get a question on the ballot. They currently need 11,906 to qualify.
The deadline for submitting petitions this year is May 1. Martinez isn't sure they'll make that deadline but said they will try for future elections.
Two other proposals are on a trajectory to make the November ballot, if they meet requirements.
The City Council sent a proposal written by three of its members to the Charter Commission for consideration. The Charter Commission has until mid-August to provide a recommendation on the proposal, which the council can ignore.
That proposal, sponsored by Council Members Steve Fletcher, Jeremy Schroeder and Cunningham, calls for the city to create a new Department of Public Safety that "provides a comprehensive approach designed to address the connection between public safety and health by integrating various public safety functions of the city."
It would change the City Charter, removing the requirements to keep a minimum number of police based on the city's population and the mayor's "complete power" over officers' operations.
The latest version, revised after feedback from the city attorney, says the new department would be led by a commissioner appointed by the city's elected leaders. The department must include a division with police, but it could have other divisions as well.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, an independent political committee, is also collecting petition signatures to ask voters this November whether to replace the department with a new entity that would take a "comprehensive public health approach to safety."
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994