MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With Minneapolis city elections approaching, public safety is the topic on most everyone’s mind.

On Nov. 2, the city’s voters will decide whether to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety via a ballot question.

Also on the ballot: All 13 city council seats. WCCO reached out to each incumbent city councilmember to see where they stand on public safety reform.

(Note: Alondra Cano (Ward 9) and President Lisa Bender (Ward 10) are not running for re-election.)

RESOURCES: 

Ward 1: Kevin Reich

Reich did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment, but this is his stated position on public safety, from his campaign website:

I support a truly holistic approach to public safety that will both keep Minneapolis safe and structurally reforms the current police department.

I believe that public safety should not end with armed officers. I have continuously supported alternatives to traditional policing. I have supported funding violence prevention programs as well as incorporating mental health professionals and social workers into our public safety system. I believe that future public safety systems must continue to implement these alternative public safety programs and professionals.

I also believe that we need a well-funded, disciplined, and accountable police force. Dangerous situations will arise that require armed officers. Considering our current staffing levels, defunding or abolishing the police department would leave Minneapolis vulnerable. I believe that through working with Chief Arradondo we have a real opportunity to change the culture, training, and tactics of the Minneapolis Police Department for the better.

Substantial reform and safety and not mutually exclusive. Through embracing alternatives to armed officers, funding violence prevention programs, and working with our reform-minded chief, we can create a safer, more just, and more effective public safety system.

Reich notes on his website that he was not among the city councilmembers who called for the disbanding of MPD following the murder of George Floyd.

Ward 2: Cam Gordon

Gordon did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment, but on his campaign website he lists six pillars of his public safety policy:

  • Invest in public safety services outside of policing
  • Amend the Charter
  • Focus on prevention
  • Hold police officers accountable
  • Reduce the power of the Police Federation
  • Demilitarize the police

Ward 3: Steve Fletcher

Fletcher did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment, but on his campaign website he states his support for the charter amendment that would replace the police department with a Department of Public Safety.

“This important structural change will allow us to send the right response to each call for service, remove a provision won by the Police Federation in 1961 that currently locks us into our police-only approach, and put police under the same oversight and accountability as every other city department,” he said.

On public safety generally, also from Fletcher’s site:

 

This has been the toughest and the most important conversation happening in our city this term, without question, and I have consistently led our work to reimagine our city’s approach to public safety. The intensity of the calls for structural change increased when George Floyd was killed, but the work did not start in 2020, and it must not stop in 2021. I ran on a platform that called for transforming our system of public safety, and I have taken purposeful steps in that direction each year I’ve served on the Council. I am running again to continue the work.

 

Ward 4: Phillipe Cunningham

Cunningham did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment. On his campaign website, he states his support for creating a new Minneapolis Department of Public Safety.

“CM Cunningham will continue working relentlessly to ensure ALL people are safe by transforming public safety through building out a system of public safety that is as diverse as our city’s residents and their needs,” the site states.

Ward 5: Jeremiah Ellison

Ellison did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment. He was one of five councilmembers — including Alondra Cano, Fletcher, Gordon and Lisa Bender — who authored an ordinance to remove the requirement for a police department from the city charter last summer.

On his campaign website, Ellison says this about public safety:

 

I worked with my colleagues to fund upstream solutions to violence, including establishing the Office of Violence Prevention in 2018, and in the past 3 years, the office has grown from a capacity of $500,000 to a capacity of $2.5 million. The Office of Violence Prevention aims to break the cycle of violence by using a community-centered, public health approach

I continued to expand how we keep each other safe by taking co-responders with mental health professionals citywide, as well as funding a standalone mental health response unit. I will also continue to work to proactively to address youth violence through proven public health approaches, rather than through a police-only approach.

 

Ward 6: Jamal Osman

Osman did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment. His public stance on police reform is posted on his campaign website:

 

For too long, the Minneapolis police department has operated as an organization that lacks community oversight and direction, as well one that is often openly hostile towards people of color within our community. George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police officers was horrific and the lack of human decency shown by the four officers in the footage we all saw is the reality faced by too many living in Minneapolis. The MPD needs change, and it cannot wait.

The firing and arrest of the four officers, the banning of neck restraints and chokeholds, and forcing officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used are all small, positive steps that the City has taken towards reforming the police department, but it is far from enough. I fully support the efforts to re-imagine a new, different and better way to serve the citizens of Minneapolis.

The police should reflect and be responsive to the cultural, racial, and gender diversity of the communities they are supposed to serve. Police departments nationwide that have more black officers are proven significantly less likely to kill black people. We need a better reflection of the community in those charged with keeping us safe including more who reside in Minneapolis. The Stanek Law should be overturned by our legislature and Minneapolis should re-institute a residency requirement.

As someone that has worked extensively in mental healthcare and public housing, I have seen firsthand how ill-equipped our officers are to handle many of the calls they respond to. There are better ways to structure this so that our community can be kept safe and served more effectively.

Practices like “stop-and-frisk” and arrests for disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, marijuana possession, and consuming alcohol on streets all are racist practices that are taught to police officers as high priority enforcement.

My focus is on establishing alternatives approaches to many of these issues, which are actually mental health issues – more focus on crisis counsellors as first responders to incidents involving mental health issues, establishing mental and social care professionals to treat and work with our vulnerable populations, and providing opioid recovery programs for those who have struggled with addiction. This could be funded with monies currently devoted to regular policing.

Too often, the police union has used their influence to protect unfit officers. The unfair protections that officers have make it difficult to properly punish police officers, like Derek Chauvin and his associates, who are unfit to serve. Disciplinary histories and performance reviews should be part of any and all disciplinary actions. While the Police Federation’s main focus is to serve their members, it should not be at the expense of the public they should be serving.

The MPD to be fundamentally re-imagined and it is a priority for me as a future council member. I will work to make sure that all citizens in my district have a voice, and that they all feel safe in our united community.

 

Ward 7: Lisa Goodman

Goodman gave WCCO the following statements:

 

I support a both/and approach to public safety. I believe that we need to have deep structural change in the way our policing is done, we need to have alternatives in public safety, meaning police shouldn’t respond to everything, and we need to have adequate funding and staffing of our police. For far too long the law enforcement function of municipal government has been required to handle too many problems, many of which police officers are not best able or trained to handle. We have come to a place where we have relied on a police response when other interventions could and should be implemented. We owe it to our communities to work to get this right. In order to ensure true community policing we need more officers not fewer. Our police are currently moving from one 911 to another and are not afforded the crucial time needed to work within neighborhoods to build relationships, develop trust and adequately keep our city safe. I also support Chief Arrandondo and his reform priorities in hiring, training and a community service requirement, so that sworn personnel are deeply in touch with the communities they are serving.

Systemic change is required in how Minneapolis handles law enforcement. The proposed public safety charter amendment does not provide that systemic change. Calling our law enforcement function the Department of Public Safety instead of the Minneapolis Police Department isn’t transformational. Removing the Police Chief position from the Charter doesn’t create change, it moves accountability further from elected leadership by making the Chief accountable to another department head. Having 14 bosses making decisions about law enforcement doesn’t solve the problems with MPD. Under current state law, a Department of Public Safety in Minneapolis will still have the same union, laws that require binding arbitration, and a broken system currently used to discipline and fire officers.

 

Ward 8: Andrea Jenkins

Jenkins did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment. Here is her stated position on public safety, from her campaign website:

 

Public safety should be a continuum of services and responses determined by the community, including: a professional, well-trained, highly accountable, community-controlled police force to investigate crimes and hold people accountable for breaking the law; a separate mental health response to address mental health crises without the use of force; addressing economic inequities, including the lack of affordable housing.

 

Ward 9: Alondra Cano

Cano is not seeking re-election.

Ward 10: Lisa Bender

Bender is not seeking re-election.

 

Ward 11: Jeremy Schroeder

After the events of the last year, nearly everyone agrees that the Minneapolis Police Department must change. While it is clear we still need police, it is also clear that the Minneapolis Police Department as a whole and its approach to public safety has not been successful. The violence we have seen at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department is completely unacceptable and neither are the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that have been paid out in misconduct lawsuits. After decades of reform as well as multiple mayors and chiefs, it is clear that those reforms have not been enough and something more must be done.

I support the proposed amendment because the measure would increase accountability and transparency for the law enforcement officers by putting this new department on the exact same level as every department. It would also create the broader public safety system that Minneapolis needs, incorporating violence prevention and other critical non-police functions, to replace the one-size-fits-all approach we have now.

 

Ward 12: Andrew Johnson

Johnson did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment. On his campaign website, Johnson said he supports the public safety charter amendment.

His position on public safety, as quoted from his site:

 

Public safety is a core role of any city, and everyone deserves to feels safe, both in community and when interacting with law enforcement. The past year though has proved that the status quo approach is not producing good enough results on either of those fronts. That’s why transformational change is needed.

Such change includes a public health focus on addressing the upstream causes of crime and interrupting cycles of violence, alternative ways to respond to public safety needs where safe and appropriate, and ensuring every city employee serves with compassion and professionalism. Yes, we still need police as part of our public safety system, and we need appropriate staffing levels, but we also cannot continue to expect every problem to be solved by a police officer, nor dysfunction within the institution of MPD to be solved via minor reforms.

I’ve been leading on this work, such as my efforts to establish the 911 Workgroup which directly resulted in our plans for a citywide mental health responder program and other alternative responses beyond policing.

 

Ward 13: Linea Palmisano

Palmisano did not respond to WCCO’s request for comment. Her position on public safety is posted on her campaign website:

 

Every person living in Minneapolis should feel safe and served by the people and programs intended to promote public safety. And right now, that’s not the case. That’s why I’m working to transform public safety in Minneapolis.

I did not sign a pledge to dismantle or defund the police. People have different ideas about what “defunding” the police looks like, and I want to be transparent in my convictions. I don’t equivocate when it comes to my belief that we need to appropriately fund a police department. While I have worked to create positive changes from top to bottom, and implement oversight and strengthen accountability of police officers, these measures did not do enough to protect George Floyd and other people of color and Indigenous people in our city who have suffered at the hands of police. We can and must do better.

Also, we must broaden our view of how to respond to emergency calls – especially non-violent ones. When you call for help, you should have a say in what kind of help you receive. That’s why I supported a study to analyze 911 calls in Minneapolis. The study reveals that a good portion of calls – 10 percent or more – can be addressed by staff other than sworn police officers.

I’m already working to ensure the city provides trained staff to appropriately and compassionately respond to certain types of crises. I strongly supported development of the city’s mental health co-responder program, and I’m pushing for housing co-responders who can provide resources to people experiencing homelessness.

Economic security and the physical and mental well-being of Minneapolis residents are fundamental to community safety. We need to address the root causes of challenges we face – not just the symptoms. I believe we should look at public safety through a public health lens, and this means that Minneapolis needs long-term investments in violence prevention such as the CURE Violence initiative, and why it is critical to reduce economic disparities, especially in stable and affordable housing for residents.

We will not be successful in reforming public safety without engaging the community, hearing your ideas, and being clear about how your ideas will shape our city’s new approach to public safety. That’s why I co-authored a resolution that initiates a year-long community engagement process around public safety. The resolution passed with unanimous support from my colleagues.

City staff are working on plans for comprehensive, city-wide engagement right now, but I didn’t wait to jump in. During the summer of 2020, I hosted 7 forums on public safety to hear directly from constituents. It’s important we start engaging in hard conversations now. That’s how we’ll make progress, together.