A Brief History of Police Politics in the Minneapolis City Charter (1959-1961)

On July 8, 2020, the Minneapolis Charter Commission will hear from city council members and the mayor about a proposed change to the city charter related to the police department. Broadly speaking, this charter amendment would create a new department (Community Safety and Violence Prevention) to replace the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and give the city council oversight of this new department. The mayor currently has complete authority over MPD.

On July 15, 2020, the Charter Commission will hold a public hearing on the amendment. After that, likely at a later meeting, they will take one of four actions: yes, no, provide a substitute amendment, or delay action. The Charter Commission is essentially offering a recommendation, which the city council can accept or reject. But if the commission delays their action past August 5 (which they have the authority to do), it becomes impossible for this amendment to be put to voters in November.

One question keeps popping up: why does this even need to go to the voters? The Minneapolis City Council has publicly resolved to take action and has a veto-proof majority, so what’s the issue? One key obstacle to meaningful change involves language in the city charter that requires a police department be staffed at a minimum level:

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Minneapolis police proposal would be kept off November ballot if Charter Commission fails to act by August 5

The Minneapolis Charter Commission met yesterday to set a schedule of meetings to consider a proposal put forward by the City Council to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. Next Wednesday, they’ll hear from members of the City Council and Mayor Frey — who opposes the change. A public hearing is set for Wednesday, July 15.

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Editorial Board to Mayor Frey: Stop Scaring Our Moms

Last night, Mayor Jacob Frey was a guest on my mom’s second favorite MSNBC program. He suggested to a national cable audience of increasingly scared moms that our City Council is interested in “abolishing all law enforcement.” This echoes comments he made last Friday about a “wholesale elimination of a police response to violent crime.” It’s important to note that if you listen to members of the City Council, “abolishing all law enforcement” isn’t on anyone’s agenda.

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Mayor Frey and City Council hold dueling press conferences on police charter amendment

Last Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to send a public safety charter amendment forward to the Charter Commission. If ultimately placed on this year’s ballot and approved by voters, the charter change would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department called Community Safety and Violence Prevention. This new department would have a public health orientation and be focused on violence prevention. It would be led not by a police chief, but by someone with public health or restorative justice experience. Within the new department there would be a division of law enforcement staffed with licensed police officers.

Another way the proposal would change the city’s system of public safety would be who has authority over the new department. Currently the Mayor is given exclusive authority over MPD. If approved by voters, the charter change would grant policy-making authority over the new department to the City Council.

Mayor Frey, who opposes the change, and the City Council held separate press conferences on Friday. Here are some of Frey’s critiques and the response from members of the City Council (mostly Jeremiah Ellison, who has articulated the issues most clearly and directly).

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Some Minneapolis City Council Members Double Down on Call to Replace a Failing System (That is Very Much Still in Effect as I Write This Headline)

This year has been a lot to handle. It’s the fourth year of a bumbling fascist as US President; a pandemic has killed 124,000 Americans and counting; there’s deepening economic misery for millions. And our city is at the epicenter of a global protest movement, kicked off by a Minneapolis cop casually pressing the life out of a man, while three other officers looked on and did nothing for nearly eight minutes.

You’ve got your pick of social, economic, and historical forces to explain how we got to this specific moment, with things spinning out of control. Choose one. Choose a little of each. In the midst of cascading disasters, it’s easy to lose track of it all. But we shouldn’t forget George Floyd, a black man who should still be alive. And we shouldn’t forget that the men responsible for taking his life were employees of the City of Minneapolis, acting ostensibly on our behalf.

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With 24 hours to prepare, Minneapolis police fail to stop gunfight

I don’t usually direct my evening walks through Uptown on a weekend, but on Saturday I had the expectation that something might happen. Friday night had been chaotic, even by Uptown standards (I watched from home on snapchat). Fireworks in the street outside the bars, street racing, tire burnouts, doing donuts in the intersection. Would it happen again? Would the police try to take control? I wanted to see.

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2021: The “Defund Police” Election in Minneapolis

On Sunday, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council stood together on a stage with the words “Defund Police” draped across the front in giant letters. At a rally organized by Black Visions Collective and Reclaim the Block, City Council President Lisa Bender told the crowd, “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed… Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it.”

While this amounts to a veto-proof majority of the council, the nine haven’t yet developed or agreed to a specific plan to “Defund Police.” But the police murder of George Floyd has convinced them once and for all that MPD doesn’t actually make everyone safer — and is so broken that it can’t be reformed. The nine council members have committed to a year-long engagement process to determine how to replace the city’s broken system of public safety. This timeline puts the issue square in the middle of a city election year.

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