Minneapolis voters to decide fate of MPD

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Voters in Minneapolis will face a lengthy ballot next Tuesday with a crowded mayor’s race and several competitive city council races. However, they’ll also vote on three amendments to the city charter, one of which could eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it from scratch with a new Department of Public Safety. It would be a dramatic move that some fear could result in less police funding and fewer licensed police officers on the street.

"The vote in Minneapolis could have national implications as well because a lot of the national media will be watching this," Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier said. "A lot of people who study law and order and crime will be watching this. And so the nation’s eyes in many ways will be on this vote."

Two groups are waging door-to-door, social media and radio and television campaigns for and against the measure. Here’s how Question No. 2 reads in its entirety:

"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? Explanatory Note: This amendment would create a Department of Public Safety combining public safety functions through a comprehensive public health approach to be determined by the Mayor and Council. The department would be led by a Commissioner nominated by the Mayor and appointed by the Council. The Police Department, and its chief, would be removed from the City Charter. The Public Safety Department could include police officers, but the minimum funding requirement would be eliminated."

A television and internet ad from "Yes 4 Minneapolis" quotes a voter saying, in part, "I read up and Question 2 is a better plan. It updates our city charter, creating a comprehensive Department of Public Safety. So police can work with qualified mental health experts and social workers. No matter who we are or where we live we all want safer communities and justice now. Vote yes on 2."

A group organized to oppose Question 2, "All for Minneapolis," warns of dire consequences if the measure passes.

"I think policing in this country needs to be reformed… but to get rid of police I think would be a disaster. If we abolish the police, you know, scrap the whole system, then what?" the advertisement asks. The group instead proposes reforming the current police department. "You reform the police department. You can have public safety and justice."

Through August, the "Yes for Minneapolis" group had raised more than $500,000, while "All of Minneapolis" raised just over $100,000. Updated fundraising totals are due out this week.