Members of the Minneapolis City Council are seeking to get a proposal to abolish the city’s police department on the ballot in November.
If successful, voters could decide the fate of public safety by voting for or against a question that would disband the Minneapolis Police Department in favor of a public safety office that would employ police officers in a nontraditional capacity.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported City Council members Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher and Jeremy Schroeder offered a plan to disband the department in favor of a new Department of Public Safety.
They have not yet explained how the office would work. Fletcher offered a comment about the proposal to the newspaper.
“Minneapolis residents are imagining a comprehensive public safety approach that is more effective and more reflective of our values, and they are calling on the city to act,” he said. “This charter amendment creates a structure that supports that vision and allows our city to innovate.”
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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat, did not appear sold on the idea in a statement to the Star Tribune.
“I believe in a comprehensive approach. That’s what we’re hearing from people,” Frey said. “We are not hearing people want to dilute accountability by having the head of public safety report to 14 people.”
The newspaper reported that the new Department of Public Safety would have police and “additional divisions … to provide for a comprehensive approach to public safety beyond law enforcement.”
If the Police Department is disbanded, any law enforcement officers employed in the city would answer to the 13-member City Council and the mayor rather than chief of police. The plan apparently would do away with the traditional law enforcement hierarchy.
Also, the city no longer would be required to staff at a minimum number of officers with respect to its population, the Star Tribune reported.
The Minneapolis Police Department has been in the crosshairs of city Democrats since the death of George Floyd while in police custody last May. Video of Floyd’s death went viral and sparked nationwide protests and rioting.
Last month, the City Council unanimously voted to strip $8 million in funding for the Police Department out of the 2021 budget, CBS News reported.
Minneapolis has experienced a major crime wave since Floyd’s death and amid the ensuing campaign to defund the Police Department.
WCCO-TV reported that during the first three weeks of the year, the city experienced a 250 percent increase in gunshot wound victims when compared with the same time period in 2020. Additionally, reported rapes are up 22 percent this year, and reported robberies are up 59 percent.
The outlet reported the City Council was made aware of the numbers just prior to two more homicides.
Despite the rise in shootings, the three council members behind the proposal to abolish the Police Department proceeded with their proposition.
One Minneapolis resident who spoke to WCCO partially blamed the “defund the police” movement for the uptick in violence.
Former City Council member Don Samuels told the outlet that anti-police sentiment and unrest related to Floyd’s death are factors in making his city less safe.
“We have to have a wholesome community,” Samuels said. “We need multi-strategy and not a singular approach like the current council is doing, where it’s all about police.
“Police have to change but we need them desperately.”
Whether the Minneapolis Police Department is abolished will be up to voters, should the proposal make it on the ballot.