EXPLAINER - What would Minneapolis's policing issue look like?

Minneapolis voters will decide whether to replace its embattled police force with a new Department of Public Safety.

EXPLAINER - What would Minneapolis's policing issue look like?

This proposal was born from calls to "defund" the police after George Floyd's May 2020 death. It is based on a Minneapolis police officer's knee.

There has been a heated debate about the proposed changes to city charter. What number of police will the city have? It's not clear what the details will be. Within a month of the election, the Mayor and City Council would need to reach an agreement on the basic outlines of the new system.

Let's take a look at Tuesday's election and see the arguments from both sides.

WHAT'S ON THE BALLOT

Ballot proposal No. Ballot proposal No. 2. The ballot asks voters if the city charter should change to eliminate its requirement that the city maintain a police department with minimum staffing. It would be replaced by a new Department of Public Safety, which would adopt a "comprehensive approach to public safety" and include police officers "if necessary" in order to fulfill its responsibilities for public security. The commissioner would be appointed by the council and would be headed by the mayor.

WHAT WOULD THE NEW AGENCY DO?

This is not mentioned in the charter amendment or the ballot language. This is the core of the debate.

The change is supported by those who believe in a "holistic" approach for public safety. This would not require the deployment of armed police officers to every call. They need other experts in the areas of mental health, housing and violence reduction, as well as intervention.

All that depends on the agreement reached by the mayor and City Council. The new department's leader is still to be decided. Medaria Arradondo (the city's Black chief) said that passage would place any law enforcement leader into a "wholly unmanageable position."

WOULD MINNEAPOLIS HAVE COPS EVEN IF IT DID NOT? It's almost certain, but it's uncertain how many. The supporters of a new police department point out that many references to police are found in city ordinances and state statutes. This effectively means that the new department would still need them if the amendment is passed. The charter requirement that the city must fund at least 0.0017 police officers per resident would not be met. Instead, funding and staffing levels will be left up to the mayor and council.

Minneapolis Police Department has a third of its maximum authorized number of 888 officers left. This means that the department is down 300 officers. As of mid-October, only 588 officers were available to work, compared to the charter-mandated minimum 730. One reason is the fact that officers are retiring, quitting or taking disability leave for post-traumatic stress disorder after the violent unrest, looting, and arson that followed Floyd’s death. Critics of this proposal claim that the drop in officers is responsible for the rise in gun violence and other criminal acts in Minneapolis since Floyd's death.

WHY SAY SUPPORTERS THAT IT IS NEEDED?

Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign supporters claim that the "public health approach", which offers new options for responding to police emergencies, would decrease excessive police force and put more emphasis on prevention. The changes are necessary to end a police culture that is resistant to change and protects the bad apples. The new approach will make the community safer, especially for people of color. They also claim that the new department will be accountable to the whole city, as it will have to answer to the 13-member City Council and not just to the mayor.

WHY SAY THE OPPONENTS?

Opponents, such as the All of Mpls Campaign, claim that the greatest problem is the lack of a plan. This makes it a risky gamble. Many support many of the proposed changes, including the increased reliance on unarmed professionals. They say that it is not necessary to amend city charter in order to achieve those goals. Many critics also distrust City Council. This is because a majority of current members stood on a podium with a prominent "Defund Polic" sign shortly after Floyd's passing and promised to dismantle department.

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