Minneapolis voters on Tuesday rejected a progressive plan to do away with the city’s police department and to replace it with a vaguely defined “Department of Public Safety,” which would not have been required to employ any actual police officers.
The charter amendment failed, with 57 percent of voters rejecting the proposal in preliminary results, the New York Times reported late Tuesday night. It is the most direct referendum yet on the Left’s post-George Floyd anti-police message.
City Question 2 asked voters if they wished to replace the city’s police department with a public safety department that would employ “a comprehensive public health approach.” The department would not have been required to employ police officers, but it could have employed them “if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety,” according to the ballot language. The amendment would have gotten rid of the funding formula to determine a minimum number of officers in the city, and it would have removed the police chief’s job from the city charter. The new department would have been headed instead by a civilian commissioner reporting not only to the mayor, but to the 13-member city council.
The ballot initiative was pushed by Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of more than 50 liberal and leftist groups, including racial justice and black-liberation organizations, labor unions, advocates for sex workers and the homeless, the American Civil Liberties Union, a young Democrats group, and at least two local socialist organizations.
While the ballot measure wasn’t strictly a “defund the police” initiative, the board chairwoman of Yes 4 Minneapolis, Kandace Montgomery, was the director of Black Visions Collective, one of the leading groups last year calling for defunding and abolishing the police department.
The activists behind the measure insisted the city’s police department is irretrievably broken. They envisioned a public safety department that employs social workers, health-care workers, violence interrupters, and professionals specifically trained to deal with homelessness, addiction and mental health crises.
However, opponents of the initiative noted that there was no actual plan behind it. There were no details explaining how many social workers and violence interrupters would have been employed, how they would have been deployed into potentially volatile situations, what would happen if a seemingly calm situation turned violent or deadly, or how all the advocates’ lofty ambitions would have been funded. An explanatory note on the ballot language said only that public safety would be maintained “through a comprehensive public health approach to be determined by the Mayor and Council.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune urged the city’s residents to vote down the initiative, writing that it provides “simply no plan for public safety in Minnesota’s largest city.”
“Instead, there are grandiose interpretations by supporters who claim transformational changes would be unleashed if only the amendment passes. But there is no road map on how to get there.”
The ballot initiative divided Democrats in Minnesota and elsewhere. Progressives such as U.S. representative Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) and Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison supported it, while the state’s Democratic governor, Tim Walz, and U.S. senator Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn) opposed it.