Eighteen months after George Floyd’s murder sparked calls for radical change in Minneapolis, voters rejected a proposal to replace the city’s police department with a Department of Public Safety.
The initiative would have changed the city’s charter to no longer require a police department with a minimum level of funding or number of officers. Instead the proposal aimed to use a “comprehensive public health approach” to nonviolent crime, which may include peace officers.
Advocates of the move argued that urgent change is needed in a city that has been historically plagued by police misconduct. But critics insisted that removing the police department without a fully fleshed-out plan would lead to a disaster Minneapolis could not afford. Fifty-six percent of voters chose “no” to the proposal on Tuesday.
“We’ve been through enough,” Nekima Armstrong, a prominent local civil rights lawyer, activist and longtime Minneapolis resident, told Yahoo News. “I’m hoping that somehow change happens, but in a way that is responsible without putting the most vulnerable in a worse position.”
“Minneapolis voters have made clear that we want a planful approach to transforming policing and public safety in our city that needs to include meaningful consultation with the communities that are most impacted by both violent crime and by over-policing,” Leili Fatehi, manager of the All of Mpls campaign, told the Associated Press.
The advocacy group Yes 4 Minneapolis, which had petitioned for the initial proposal, expressed disappointment in Tuesday’s results but vowed to continue pushing for a safer community.
“While this is not the result that we hoped for, the story of our movement must be told,” the group said in a statement released late Tuesday. “We changed the conversation about what public safety should look like. We showed the country and the world the power of democracy and the power of the people. Now, we will work to hold leaders and the system accountable. We will work to heal our city and create safer streets for all our communities.”
Tuesday’s results marked a significant shift in public sentiment toward policing in the city, as a recent poll by local media outlets in September found that 49 percent of residents favored the ballot measure, while about 41 percent opposed.
In Tuesday’s election, incumbent Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposed calls to defund and overhaul the Minneapolis police, led a crowded 17-person mayoral field by more than 20 percentage points over his second-closest opponent in the first round of ranked-choice voting.
Cover thumbnail photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
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