AP

Minneapolis voters reject replacing police with new agency

Nov 2, 2021, 8:16 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2021, 1:16 pm
Voters emerge from Sabathani Community Center after casting their ballots during municipal election...
Voters emerge from Sabathani Community Center after casting their ballots during municipal elections Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Minneapolis. Voters in Minneapolis are deciding whether to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety. The election comes more than a year after George Floyd’s death launched a movement to defund or abolish police across the country.(David Joles /Star Tribune via AP)
(David Joles /Star Tribune via AP)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minneapolis voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety, an idea that supporters hoped would bring radical change to policing in the city where George Floyd’s death under an officer’s knee brought calls for racial justice.

The initiative would have changed the city charter to remove a requirement that the city have a police department with a minimum number of officers. Supporters said a complete overhaul of policing was necessary to stop police violence. Opponents said the proposal had no concrete plan for how to move forward and warned it would leave some communities already affected by violence more vulnerable as crime is on the rise.

The ballot proposal had roots in the abolish-the-police movement that erupted after Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year. The debate over racial justice in policing brought national attention to Tuesday’s vote, as well as a river of out-of-state money seeking to influence the outcome that could have shaped change elsewhere, too.

The ballot question called for a new Department of Public Safety to take “a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions” that would be determined by the mayor and City Council. Supporters argued it was a chance to reimagine what public safety can be and how money gets spent. Among other things, supporters said, funding would go toward programs that don’t send armed officers to call on people in crisis.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Voters in Minneapolis were deciding Tuesday whether to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety, more than a year after George Floyd’s death under the knee of a white police officer launched a movement to defund or abolish police across the country.

Voters appeared close to rejecting the proposal, with 58 percent opposing it with about 70 percent of precincts reporting.

Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey was also in a tough fight for a second term, facing a bevy of opponents who have attacked him for his leadership in the wake of Floyd’s death. Frey opposed the policing amendment. Two of his leading challengers in the field of 17 candidates, Sheila Nezhad and Kate Knuth, strongly supported the proposal.

Frey had 44% of the first-choice votes with over 70% of precincts reporting, while Nezhad and Knuth were neck-and-neck in the high teens. But Frey would need 50% to win outright Tuesday night under Minneapolis’ ranked choice voting system. Otherwise, the outcome would be determined Wednesday when the second- and potentially the third-choice votes are tallied.

Minneapolis voters were also deciding whether to replace the city’s unusual “weak mayor, strong council” system with a more conventional distribution of executive and legislative powers that would give the mayor clearer authority over day-to-day government operations.

The future of policing in the city where Floyd’s death in May 2020 launched a nationwide reckoning on racial justice overshadowed everything on the municipal ballot. The debate brought national attention to the election, as well as a river of out-of-state money seeking to influence a contest that could shape changes in policing elsewhere, too.

Rishi Khanna, 31, a tech worker, voted yes on replacing the police department, saying he doesn’t believe police officers are qualified to deal with many situations, such as mental health crises. He said he thinks having professionals equipped to deal with a range of public safety issues in the same department as law enforcement will benefit both residents and police officers.

“I understand that law enforcement will have to have a seat at the table, but I think both in our community and in communities around the country, too often law enforcement is the only seat at the table,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the right solution.”

Askari Lyons, 61, voted against the ballot initiative. A resident of the city’s largely Black north side, where violent crime runs higher than in the rest of the city, he said he believes Minneapolis police officers “may have learned a lesson after George Floyd’s death and what happened to the cop that killed him.”

Lyons called it “unwise” to replace the department and said he believes change within the department is imminent.

“People are so frustrated, so angry, so disappointed” with the violence occurring citywide as much as they are with the city’s law enforcement, he said.

The proposed amendment to the city charter would remove language that mandates that Minneapolis have a police department with a minimum number of officers based on population. It would be replaced by a new Department of Public Safety that would take a “comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions” that “could include” police officers “if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety.”

Supporters of the change argued that a complete overhaul of policing is necessary to stop police violence. They framed it as a chance to re-imagine what public safety can be and to devote more funding toward new approaches that don’t rely on sending armed officers to deal with people in crisis.

But opponents said the ballot proposal contained no concrete plan for how the new department would operate and expressed fear that it might make communities already affected by gun violence even more vulnerable to rising crime. The details, and who would lead the new agency, would be determined by the mayor and the City Council.

Two nationally prominent progressive Democratic leaders — U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the Minneapolis area, and state Attorney General Keith Ellison — both supported the policing amendment. But some leading mainstream liberals, including Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, opposed it and feared the backlash could lead to Democratic losses across the country in 2022.

Support didn’t cleanly follow racial lines. Opponents included several prominent Black leaders, including some who have been top voices in the police accountability movement.

Minister JaNaé Bates, a spokeswoman for the pro-amendment campaign, told reporters Monday that even if the proposal fails, the activists behind it have changed the conversation around public safety.

“No matter what happens, the city of Minneapolis is going to have to move forward and really wrestle with what we cannot unknow: that the Minneapolis Police Department has been able to operate with impunity and has done quite a bit of harm and the city has to take some serious steps to rectify that,” Bates said.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

A 2020 photo of Thomas Lane, the former Minneapolis police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday, May 18...
AMY FORLITI, STEVE KARNOWSKI and MOHAMED IBRAHIM

Ex-cop pleads guilty to manslaughter in George Floyd killing

Floyd, 46, died May 25, 2020, after Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground with a knee on his neck. Lane helped to restrain Floyd.
13 hours ago
Hands holding two small viles of vaccine....
LAURAN NEERGAARD AP Medical Writer

FDA clears COVID booster shot for healthy kids ages 5 to 11

Pfizer's shot is the only COVID-19 vaccine available for children of any age in the U.S. Those ages 5 to 11 receive one-third of the dose given to everyone 12 and older. Pfizer found a booster revved up those kids' levels of virus-fighting antibodies -- including those able to fight omicron -- the same kind of jump adults get from an extra shot.
2 days ago
A McDonald's in Russia...
DAVID KOENIG and DEE-ANN DURBIN AP Business Writers

De-Arching: McDonald’s to sell Russia business, exit country

McDonald's said it's the first time the company has ever "de-arched," or exited a major market. It plans to start removing golden arches and other symbols and signs with the company's name.
2 days ago
Katherine Gibson-Haynes helps distribute infant formula during a baby formula drive Saturday, May 1...
ZEKE MILLER and MATTHEW PERRONE

Abbott says agreement reached to reopen baby formula plant

Baby formula maker Abbott says it has reached an agreement with U.S. health officials to restart production in its largest domestic factory.
3 days ago
Investigators gather outside the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, Calif., on Sunday, May...
DAMIAN DOVARGANES and CHRISTOPHER WEBER

California churchgoers detained gunman in deadly attack

Police say that the gunman was detained by churchgoers in an act of "exceptional heroism and bravery."
4 days ago
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson...
CAROLYN THOMPSON and DAVE COLLINS

10 dead in Buffalo supermarket attack police call hate crime

A white 18-year-old wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, killing 10 people and wounding three others Saturday in what authorities described as “racially motivated violent extremism.”
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
...

Tax Tuesday: The Most Common Mistakes People Make When Filing Their Taxes

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: How will last year’s child tax credits affect you?

Fortunately, for most average earners, they will not end up owing overpayments received for the Child Tax Credit in 2021.
...

Tax Tuesday: Key Information Before the Filing Deadline

Businesses can receive a credit of up to $5,000 per employee in 2020 and up to $21,000 per employee in 2021.
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Minneapolis voters reject replacing police with new agency