The Minneapolis Charter Commission brought city council efforts to defund and disband the Minneapolis Police Department to a halt Wednesday, refusing the council’s demand to place an initiative to “abolish” the MPD on the November ballot and excoriating the city council over its lack of planning.
The Minneapolis City Council moved, almost immediately following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, to disband the Minneapolis Police Department, with at least one member of the council arguing that the need to be protected from theft and violence was a form of “privilege.”
Despite several votes to effectively abolish the MPD, however, the issue had to go to the Minneapolis Charter Commission because having an entity dedicated to law enforcement is a requirement of the city charter.
“At the center of that debate is the city’s charter, which serves as its constitution, and requires Minneapolis to keep a police department with a minimum force based on its population,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. “A plan, written by five City Council members, would have ended that requirement and replaced the police department with a Department of Community Safety & Violence Prevention that would prioritize ‘a holistic, public health-oriented approach.'”
The measure, though, did not elaborate on what would be involved in a “holistic, public health-oriented” approach to policing. The city council told the Charter Commission only that they “expect the transformed system to include law enforcement as part of a multifaceted approach to public safety.”
“The Minneapolis City Council is not asking you to put police abolition on the ballot, nor does the amendment propose this,” the council claimed in a letter to the Charter Commission. “We are asking you to let Minneapolis vote on a new framework for public safety that aligns with the State of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety.”
The Minneapolis Charter Commission did not agree with the city council’s plan, regardless, and voted 10-5 to keep the measure off the ballot in November and, perhaps, indefinitely, if the city council does not flesh out the details of their plan for a post-police Minneapolis.
“We have an obligation to make sure that what is going on the ballot gives the voters an informed choice, that they can make a decision in a thoughtful way,” Charter Commissioner Andrew Kozak said in the meeting, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
“This is an issue that involves the lives, the well-being, the safety of Minneapolis residents,” Charter Commissioner Jill Garcia said, according to Fox News. “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 City Council said they were disappointed by the decision.
“We’ve had an unprecedented outpouring of demand for change, demand for justice, unprecedented involvement from folks who are getting engaged in city government for the first time and I don’t want people to feel too discouraged,” City Council President Lisa Bender said. “I’m disappointed and I share the disappointment that I’m sure people are feeling, but we have more ways to move forward as we continue to build this work.”