MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The Minneapolis Charter Commission recently held a vote on July 29th as whether to allow one of two police reform bills on the ballot in November, specifically one that would ask voters if they’d like to remove the requirement to maintain a police force size based upon the city’s population.
In a vote of eight to six, the Charter Commission axed that from appearing on the ballot in November – which is a huge deal, considering that the axed proposal is the lesser of two evils as there’s that other proposal being voted on next month that would completely abolish the Minneapolis Police Department.
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) July 30, 2020
Turns out, even just decreasing the size of the MPD is not a very favorable idea with the Minneapolis Charter Commission, despite constant clamoring by the Minneapolis City Council to flat-out obliterate the MPD altogether.
Commissioner Dan Cohen, who was at one time a City Council member, happens to be one of the most vocal supporters of police among the Charter Commission. While many who voted against the recent proposal cited that there has not been much research to make a sound decision on reducing the police force, Cohen thinks that both reducing the police force or dismantling it is bad news overall:
“I believe that if one of these measures were to pass the voters of Minneapolis, the result would be a giant self-inflicted wound.”
Members of the public have also voiced concerns over any measure that would defund police or drastically reduce their presence in the community. One local stated the following during a live call-in session with the City Council:
“Defunding the police is a radical experiment that will hurt the vulnerable.”
We at Law Enforcement Today previously wrote about the recently axed proposal, and what it entailed. Here’s our July 27th report on what that proposal would’ve enacted if presented on the November ballot and passed.
It seems like voters this November may have a little more choice when it comes to what policing in Minneapolis will look like in the wake of the City Council pushing proposal to completely eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department.
That potential second option comes thanks to the Minneapolis Charter Commission.
An alternative to a move by the Minneapolis City Council to remove the Police Department from the city's charter is in the works.
— MPR (@MPR) July 27, 2020
The Minneapolis City Council approved completely removing the MPD in June and replace that department with something more akin to social workers in violence prevention and community safety. But before constituents can even ponder voting for such an endeavor, that proposal still has to get the blessing of the Minneapolis Charter Commission.
"911 there are men with guns breaking into my house"
"Lmao good luck"
— Sam (@Shwarmaman) June 7, 2020
Considering that the proposal presented by the City Council is a rather drastic change to policing, Commissioner Alvaro Giraud-Isaacson from the Charter Commission decided to propose giving voters a second option at the ballots.
In Commissioner Giraud-Isaacson’s proposal, he instead wants to eliminate a 1961 provision that mandated there be a certain number of MPD officers hired with respect to the city’s population. So, while this effort would likely see a reduction in the size of the MPD, the police department would still exist and would still be funded.
Giraud-Isaacson stated the following on the proposal by the Charter Commission:
“This gives the voters an opportunity to vote yea or nay on maintaining or removing the minimum funding of the police force.”
On August 3rd, the Charter Commission will lend an ear to public testimony over their own proposal offered. As for the City Council’s proposal that aims to remove the MPD completely, the Charter Commission has held two public hearings thus far on the matter.
While the majority of in-person testimony has been in support of abolishing the department completely, Charter Commission Chair Barry Clegg noted that of the over-5,000 emails related to the topic – the community is evenly split on the decision.
City Council member Steve Fletcher isn’t particularly fond of the Charter Commission’s move to introduce their own iteration of “reimagining policing” in Minneapolis, as he is in full support of abolishing the MPD completely.
Part of Fletcher’s frustration with the unveiled proposal by the Charter Commission stems from the fact that commissioners are not elected officials – but rather appointed state court judges:
“I do think there will end up being questions about who are charter commissioners accountable to. Who will hold them accountable for the actions they’re taking and the role they’re taking in the process?”
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It’s difficult to ascertain why a City Council member would be upset at there being more options available to voters in November, since the decision still ultimately resides with how residents choose to vote.
Commissioner Clegg is well aware of the scrutiny the Charter Commission receives due to the entity being one of appointment as opposed to elected. He noted that many critics believe that the Charter Commission should simply approve what the City Council agrees on, and leave their function to that.
However, Commissioner Clegg stated that the way the state’s constitution is drafted, that is simply not the case:
“There have been a number of people who have commented and think that the charter commission’s roles should just be ministerial — that we should be a rubber stamp for proposals by the City Council. At least under current law, those people are wrong.”
Groups like Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block have been among those most-vocal when clamoring for radical changes like eliminating the MPD.
While Lex Horan from Reclaim the Block acknowledges that the Charter Commission’s proposal could meet in the proverbial middle, he believes it’s simply not enough to satisfy the group’s desires:
“We see it really as not transformative enough, given how severe the crisis with MPD is.”
While the Charter Commission will determine whether Giraud-Isaacson’s proposal will be available on the November within the next week, the commission will also make the decision on whether to have the option to abolish the MPD on the ballot on August 5th.
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