December 6, 2021

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Minneapolis voters reject ballot measure to dismantle police and replace with new agency – CBS News

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Voters in Minneapolis have on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure to dismantle their police department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety, according to the Associated Press. 

For eligible voters on Tuesday, the referendum, known as “Question 2”, asked members of the community to amend the city’s charter by replacing the existing police with a public safety department that would prioritize a “comprehensive public health approach.” 

Question 2: “Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions by the Department of Public Safety, with those specific functions to be determined by the Mayor and City Council by ordinance; which will not be subject to exclusive mayoral power over its establishment, maintenance, and command; and which could include licensed peace officers (police officers), if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety, with the general nature of the amendments being briefly indicated in the explanatory note below, which is made a part of this ballot?”

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website, with all 136 precincts reporting at 11:30 p.m. ET, more than 80,000 voters, or 56%, had voted against the measure. 

Across the country in 2020, protesters took the streets enraged by the video of George Floyd’s death and fueled by decades of systematic injustice. In the days after the initial protests, frustrated members of the community tried to convince Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to abolish the police department which he declined to do. 

The day after hundreds of protesters came to Mayor Jacob Frey’s home and shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” for his refusal to dismantle the department, nine of the 13 Minneapolis City Council members announced a commitment to defunding and dismantling the police department, with the goal of replacing it with a new system of community protection.

Election For Mayor Held In Minneapolis
Traffic passes by Moon Palace bookstore adorned with a large banner reading “Abolish The Police” on Election Day on November 2, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

Even during his renewed mayoral bid, Frey campaigned on promises of reform. His challengers campaigned on both sides of the referendum. 

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo had come out against the referendum. In a press conference last week he said that although he tries to keep politics out of the precinct, he is against the measure, according to CBS Minnesota

“It will not eliminate tragic incidents between police and community from ever occurring in our city, it will not reduce the disproportionate violent crime, disparities involving African American victims that has been a public health crisis in our city for decades, it will not suddenly change the culture of a police department that has been in existence for 150 years,” he said.

According to data provided by the department, crime has surged in Minneapolis as the number of police on the force remains at a record low.  The police chief told the city council last month that his department has lost nearly 300 officers since 2020. 

From January 1 to mid-October there were 75 homicides, an increase of 114% compared to the same time in 2019. Over the same period, the number of gunshot wounds victims spiked to 530, an 138% increase. There has also been an uptick in crimes like robbery, arson and aggravated assault.

In a budget request, Arradando asked for $27 million more in funding in 2022 that would go toward rebuilding core services.

Many opponents of the referendum also cited the lack of a coherent plan for establishing the public safety department after the 30 day time frame. 

Meanwhile, supporters of the plan say that the 30 days will be a period of transition where the mayor would appoint an interim Department of Public Safety Commissioner, who would work with the city council and the community. They will work together to combine the police force with public health professionals and other experts.

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