Latrell and his partner knocked Abdullahi Mohamed’s door on a summer afternoon. They introduced themselves, launched their pitch, and said that Minneapolis has the chance to replace its police force with something new.
Mohamed, watching his children from his living room window, reacted cautiously to the situation. He said he liked police and relied on them for his safety. Mohamed became brighter after Snider assured that the new public safety department would still include a police unit, but would respond differently to certain 911 calls.
He said, “I believe that would be the better idea.”
More than a year after George Floyd’s death sparked a failed push to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department, activists and several City Council members are trying again, with a well-funded initiative that would ask voters in November whether the department — disparaged by critics for what they say is an enduring culture of brutality — should be dismantled.
It would be replaced by a public safety division that uses a “comprehensive approach to public health” and licensed peace officers, “if necessary.” This is significant considering that the incumbent Mayor Jacob Frey opposed the elimination of the police department. However, the majority of City Council members support the idea.
Under the banner of “Yes 4 Minneapolis”, more than 30 local organizations are urging for change. They collected 20,000 signatures to put the measure on the poll. This is almost twice the required number.
Brian Fullman, the lead organizer of one of the groups Barbershop and Black Congregation Cooperative, stated that what we considered public safety, which is the police right now. It was the only option we had. “The murder of George Floyd sparked a lot historical pain and disrespect, and we decided that we didn’t want to have what was available now as our only option for public safety.
A majority of City Council members first began pushing to eliminate the police department soon after Floyd’s death, but they failed to meet deadlines to get it on the ballot last November. The Rev. JaNae, leader of Yes 4 Minneapolis, stated that the ease with which the campaign collected signatures proves that the momentum for change continues even after Floyd’s passing.
“The Minneapolis residents were the ones who called for this. They were like, We can’t let this summer’s lesson be something that flies out of our minds. And then what? “We just wait for that next person to die by the police,” she stated.
Like many major U.S. cities in recent years, Minneapolis has been in a state of flux due to the rising violence and property crimes in nearly every neighborhood. The police department has more than 200 officers (or 25%) below its authorized strength, largely due to Floyd’s retirements and disability leave.
These factors have fired up opponents to the initiative. Mpls, a group that has raised over $109,000, will start campaigning against the initiative in the coming weeks. They will be door knocking, attending community events and sending out digital ads throughout the fall.
Leili Fatehi, Mpls campaign manager, called the proposal to abolish the department “a gimmick.” However she said that many residents want police to be held responsible and for changes to the department. They also worry about rising criminality.
She stated, “It’s not getting to the real solutions that balance these two concerns.”
Opponents claim that the ballot question does not guarantee that a new department of public safety will have any police officers. It states that officers will be included “if necessary” to perform the duties of the department. Bill Rodriguez, cofounder of Operation Safety Now warned that the campaign’s ultimate goal is to abolish the police.
He said that the amendment does not say there will be police forces, but it could be, possibly if necessary. This is the most important thing to understand about this amendment.
This is one of many aspects of the ballot question city officials intend to highlight in an explanation note in November. Activists want to block this note, saying that the city is trying to influence voters in an improper manner.
The city will continue to be under pressure regardless of how the ballot question does. Federal and state investigations are underway into the police department’s policing practices. Both investigations could lead to widespread changes. The mayor and Chief Medaria arradondo, together with the chief, have made several policy changes following Floyd’s passing. These include new training in de-escalation and restrictions on force use, as well as strengthening the disciplinary process.
Although details of the new public safety division are not available, Bates stated that this is intentional to involve residents in the process. To pass the amendment, council members will need to pass an ordinance that establishes the new department. This ordinance would explain the function of the department and the selection process for its commissioner. It is not known how long this process would take.
Snider was a pitch that Ed Brown, 69 listened to on July’s north Minneapolis doorstep. According to Brown, a Black man, a new department for public safety seems like a good idea. It would allow police officers to be sent to calls they’re not equipped to handle, which could lead to violence.
Brown stated, “What we must do is reimagine our police department.”
He said, “That’s to say that they don’t necessarily have to defund but in some cases even give more money if it’s going to be done right with it.” “We must have the right responses for the appropriate situations.”