MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The push to transform policing in Minneapolis took another step Friday as the city council voted to send a charter amendment for a new public safety department to the city commission, a move required before the amendment is put to voters in November.
The Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment seeks to remove the Minneapolis Police Department from the city charter. Replacing the department would be a new Department of Public Safety, which would lead various efforts in preventing, stopping and reducing crime in the city, the amendment’s authors say.
The new department is being modeled on the structure of the state-level Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Law enforcement would be handled by a Division of Law Enforcement, which would employ peace officers. The new department could report to the mayor and the city council, unlike the current system, where the police department reports only to the mayor.
“Generations of mayors and chiefs have pledged to reform our police department, and they have failed. We can’t keep leaving this to the mayor and the chief to solve behind closed doors and expect a different result,” Council Member Steve Fletcher, one of the amendment’s authors, said in a statement. “The structure of our government has shielded the status quo for decades, and we’re putting forward a way to re-write that structure and create the possibility for transformational change.”
Following Friday’s vote, the amendment will go to the city’s charter commission, which is expected to give a recommendation to the city council by July, allowing enough time for the city to put the amendment on the November ballot. The charter commission can either recommend that the council move forward, reject the proposal or suggest that it be replaced with an alternative. The charter commission’s recommendations are non-binding.
Along with removing the Minneapolis Police Department from the city charter, the amendment would also remove language from the charter about a minimum number of police officers the city must have on the force.
Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last May, the majority of city council members pledged to transform policing in the city. That led to a ballot push for a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention” that was later rejected by the charter commission. It did not go before voters.
The latest amendment was constructed following feedback sessions with the public. Those sessions remain ongoing. The authors of the amendment say they will begin working on an ordinance to clarify the functions, leadership and operations of the new public safety department.