Minneapolis City Council votes to certify Nov. 2 ballot language for initiative to replace police department

On July 23, the Minneapolis City Council voted to approve a ballot question and explanatory note for a citizen initiative that would replace the police department with a department of public safety. The measure will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The initiative would remove language on the city’s police department from the city charter, including provisions requiring minimum funding for the department and giving the mayor control over the police department. It would also create a department of public safety. The measure would allow the new department to include “licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.” Under the initiative, the mayor would nominate and the city council would appoint the commissioner of the public safety department.

Yes 4 Minneapolis submitted more than the required 11,906 valid signatures for the initiative on April 30. The city clerk certified the petition on May 14.

The city council’s vote was to (a) set the ballot language for the measure and (b) accept a city attorney report stating the measure concerned a proper subject matter for the city charter and is constitutional. The resolution now goes to the mayor’s desk; he has five days to sign or veto it. Mayor Jacob Frey opposes the initiative, but the resolution before him does not affect whether the measure will go on the ballot.

Frey’s office stated, “Mayor Frey maintains that giving the Minneapolis City Council control over public safety work would mark a major setback for accountability and good governance. The mayor will not be signing the measure, but appreciates the careful work and thorough analysis done by City staff to prepare fair and accurate language for voters to consider this fall.”

Yes 4 Minneapolis stated, “It all started in Minneapolis. Following the murder of George Floyd last summer, we witnessed a community movement against state-sanctioned violence — a movement to better protect Black lives. […] Our movement demands our city leaders move away from violent policing to create a department that addresses community safety holistically and with a public health approach. Our movement believes that the community should decide what safety looks like. To do so, we must amend the city charter that was written in 1961 and forces us to build on a broken system. We are proud to bring this issue to voters this November.”

The city council considered putting its own charter amendment to replace the police department on the Nov. 2 ballot. But sponsors withdrew the measure when Yes 4 Minneapolis’ initiative qualified for the ballot citing concerns over confusing voters. The city council passed a similar charter amendment in 2020, but the city’s charter commission effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot by taking the full time allotted to it for review.

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