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Stories about Minnesota

Minneapolis voters will not see police department removal charter amendment in November after the charter commission votes to take more time for review

Minneapolis voters will not decide on a charter amendment in November to remove the city’s police department and replace it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. On August 5, the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal.

This effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot, although it could still appear on a later ballot. The city council’s deadline to add the measure to the November 2020 ballot is August 21. The city council is not able to vote on the measure until the charter commission returns it.

The charter amendment would have:
  1. Removed all references to the city’s police department from the city charter.
  2. Added a section establishing the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, and the director of the new department.
  3. Allowed a Division of Law Enforcement Services within the new department that would have been made up of licensed peace officers and would have had a director appointed by the director of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

Under the existing charter provisions, the mayor has authority over the police department and nominates the police chief, who must be confirmed by the city council. The existing charter also requires the city council to provide funding to the police department to provide for “a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident.”

This proposed amendment would have made the city council responsible for establishing and funding the proposed Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention and given the city council authority to establish the Division of Law Enforcement Services within the department. The director of the proposed Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention would have been nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.

Following the killing of George Floyd and the resulting demonstrations and protests, the  Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on June 26, 2020, to send the proposed charter amendment to the Minneapolis Charter Commission for review. Under the process for charter amendments set by state law, the charter commission must review proposed amendments and make recommendations to the city council. The city council does not have to follow the commission’s recommendation, but cannot vote to send a charter amendment to the ballot until the recommendation is made. The charter commission has a maximum of 150 days to review proposals from the city council.

The charter commission considered its own amendment that would have removed the minimum funding requirement for the police department from the charter. On July 29, the charter commission voted 8-6 against referring it to the ballot.

Charter Commissioner Gregory Abbott said, “[the charter] should not be cluttered up with the policy disputes of the moment. We don’t know what challenges the city will face in 10 years or 20 years or even in 50 years. It [the charter amendment] proposes permanently moving the city’s law enforcement function down to a sub-department two levels removed from supervision by elected officials. The council’s proposal even specifies the professional qualifications of the head of the new department, details more appropriate in my opinion for a zip recruiter ad than for a charter provision. Now these ideas may well be good under the circumstances but they should be enacted as part of an ordinance not included in the charter itself. There is another problem I have with the charter amendment. The proposal radically reduces the power of the mayor and transfer those powers in their entirety to the city council.”

Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison responded to the commission’s vote, “It is our legacy in the US to use voting to decide our future, whether that be by representative democracy or direct democracy. It is not our legacy to use bureaucratic processes to circumvent the people in an attempt to ‘protect’ voters from themselves. That is not democracy. In a democracy, the people decide. But I guess today the Charter Commission decided otherwise.”

Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes the charter amendment, said, “I look forward to working with Chief Arradondo, my council colleagues, and community to transform the culture of policing in our city in the months ahead. Now it is on all of us to roll up our sleeves and dig into this work together.”

This is not the first time that the Minneapolis City Council has proposed a charter amendment concerning the police department, and the charter commission has declined to expedite its review to meet a general election deadline. On August 3, 2018, the Minneapolis City Council voted 7-5 to send a charter amendment proposal to the Minneapolis Charter Commission that would have repealed provisions in the charter giving the mayor complete control over the city’s police department. The measure would have, instead, allowed rules and regulations for the police department to come from both the city council and the mayor. The charter commission did not make a recommendation to the city council in time for the city council to put the measure on the November 2018 ballot. Instead, the commission ordered a task force to create a report on the proposal. The commission ultimately recommended against the charter amendment in January 2019.

In the weeks after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, nationwide demonstrations and protests were held calling for changes to policing. Officials responded by issuing executive orders and passing legislation to eliminate certain policing tactics, such as chokeholds, and implement new community policing strategies.

Voters in at least half a dozen cities and counties—including San Francisco, Los Angeles County, and Sonoma County, California; King County, Washington; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; and Portland, Oregon―will decide ballot measures in November concerning law enforcement oversight, structure, funding, policies, and staffing levels. Stay tuned to Ballotpedia for an overview of this ballot measure trend as it develops.

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First public hearing on charter amendment to replace the Minneapolis Police Department will take place Wednesday

On July 15, the Minneapolis Charter Commission will hold a public hearing on a proposed charter amendment that would remove all reference to the city’s police department from the charter and add a section establishing the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. The Minneapolis City Council proposed this amendment for the Nov. 3 ballot.

The measure would:
  1. Eliminate charter provisions concerning the city’s police department.
  2. Establish the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention and the director of the new department.
  3. The director of the department would be nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.
  4. Allow a Division of Law Enforcement Services within the new department;
  5. The division would be made up of licensed peace officers.
  6. Its director would be appointed by the director of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
  7. Give the city council authority to establish the Division of Law Enforcement Services.

Currently, the mayor has authority over the police department and nominates the police chief, who must be confirmed by the city council. The existing charter also requires the city council to provide funding to the police department to provide for “a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident.”

Minneapolis City Council members Jeremiah Ellison, Alondra Cano, Cam Gordon, Steve Fletcher, and President Lisa Bender sponsored the proposal.

Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison said, “No singular action is going to undo longstanding systemic oppression, racial oppression. This is one action of many that we need to take on the road to a more equitable and just system that keeps people safe.”

Mayor Jacob Frey opposes the amendment. He argued that the amendment was unclear and that diverting accountability away from the mayor and the police chief and giving authority to the city council was a bad idea. Frey said, “Will we still have police? If you vote for this, are you voting to abolish the police department or is this merely a cosmetic change where you add a bureaucratic layer, you change the name to peace officer and give them different uniforms?” Frey also said, “If this is about me. There’s an election next year.”

Here is a timeline of the events leading up to the charter amendment and how far this measure has progressed:
  1. May 25: Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a Black man, after receiving a call that he had made a purchase with a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd died after one officer, Derek Chauvin, arrived at the scene and pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck as Floyd laid face-down on the street in handcuffs.
  2. June 12: Sponsors of the proposal gave notice that they would introduce it at the following council meeting.
  3. June 26: The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to send the proposed charter amendment to the Minneapolis Charter Commission.
  4. While the city council does not have to follow the recommendation of the charter commission, the city council cannot act on the proposal before receiving an official recommendation from the charter commission according to state law.
  5. The charter commission has a maximum of 150 days to review charter amendment proposals from the city council.
  6. The city council must give final approval to the charter amendment by August 21 to put the measure on this year’s ballot. It requested the charter commission to expedite its review.
  7. July 1: The charter commission scheduled the first of two public hearings on the amendment for July 15.
  8. August 5: In response to the request for an expedited timeline, Commission Chair Barry Clegg said that the commission would consider a final decision on the proposal during its August 5 meeting, allowing for a vote by the city council by August 21 if the commission agrees on a recommendation. Clegg said, however, “If we elect to take our additional time, this ballot question will not be on the ballot in November.”
  9. August 21: The deadline for the city council to approve the amendment for the Nov. 3 ballot.
This is not the first time the city council has tried to put a charter amendment concerning the police department on the ballot. In 2018, the Minneapolis City Council voted 7-5 to send a charter amendment proposal to the Minneapolis Charter Commission that would have repealed provisions in the charter giving the mayor complete control over the city’s police department. The measure would have allowed rules and regulations for the police department to come from both the city council and the mayor. The charter commission did not make a recommendation to the city council in time for the city council to put the measure on the 2018 ballot.
Click here for the timeline of that 2018 charter amendment proposal. 


Policing issues in the most recent Minneapolis and Chicago mayoral races

Two recently elected mayors of major midwestern metropolises are facing similar challenges in reaction to the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd by city police last month. Like many big American cities, large demonstrations have occurred in both Minneapolis and Chicago to protest both the death of Floyd specifically and the behavior of police in general. 

Ballotpedia’s coverage of the recent mayoral elections in Minneapolis (2017) and Chicago (2019) reveal policing policy was an important issue for candidates in both races, and in particular, the two new mayors elected: Jacob Frey in Minneapolis and Lori Lightfoot in Chicago.

Here’s a look at the campaign issues in the most recent mayoral elections in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Minneapolis 2017

In the 2017 Minneapolis race, Frey (then a city councilman) defeated incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges and 13 other candidates after securing a majority on the fifth round of tabulations in the city’s ranked-choice voting system. “Policing and public safety were top issues,” of the race because of several high-profile officer-involved shootings in the city proper and surrounding suburbs. This included the July 2016 shooting death of Philando Castile by police in nearby St. Anthony, the November 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police after they mistakenly believed he had assaulted a girlfriend, and the July 2017 shooting of Justine Damond by a Minneapolis officer after Damond called police to report a potential sexual assault.

The shooting of Damond occurred one month before candidates filed to run for mayor and helped elevate Minneapolis’ policing culture and Hodges’ policing policies to major issues during the campaign. 

Police body-worn cameras were one subject of debate in the campaign. Following her 2013 election, Mayor Hodges had implemented a camera system. But, while the officers responding to Justine Damond’s call had been wearing body cameras, neither of them had their cameras switched on when the shooting occurred.

After the Damond shooting, Hodges requested and received the resignation of Police Chief Janeé Harteau. Hodges nominated then-Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo to become the city’s first African American police chief. Whether or not to ratify Hodges’ judgment by keeping Arradondo in the position was also a campaign issue. 

Another issue was Hodges’ handling of the Jamar Clark shooting, which prompted criticism from different directions. 

The police union chief said Hodges and then-Police Chief Harteau did not support the officers involved in the Clark shooting: “Someone has to stand up for the officer.” 

But some believed Hodges had been too lenient. The local NAACP president, Nekima Levy-Pounds, led protests over the city’s handling of the Clark shooting, stating that, “Everybody who stood with Mayor Hodges is not part of the solution. They’re part of the problem!” Levy-Pounds was one of 14 candidates who ran against Hodges for mayor in 2017. 

The five most successful candidates in the opening round of Minneapolis’s ranked-choice voting system, and the policing policies they campaigned on, were as follows:

  • Jacob Frey (D), the eventual winner, advocated improving the training and mental screening of officers and strengthening body camera requirements. Frey did not commit to retaining Arradondo as police chief but did so after winning the election. (Arradondo is the current police chief navigating the controversy and criticism of his department over the death of George Floyd).
  • State Rep. Raymond Dehn (D) proposed partial defunding of the city’s police, the “full-scale demilitarization of the Minneapolis Police Department,” and the “rethinking whether every officer needs to always carry a gun.” Dehn also did not commit to whether he would retain Arradondo as the police chief.
  • Incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges (D) ran on her record of policing issues which she said included implementing police body cameras, enhancing bias training of officers, improving the tracking of complaints against police, and increasing diversity on the force.
  • Candidate Tom Hoch (D), a non-profit executive, proposed a “top to bottom review” of the police department that included giving subpoena power to civilian review panels, and changing officer licensing standards to include “a more detailed and transparent tracking system for all infractions, including information on plea agreements.” His police agenda also included several general statements such as the “adoption of best practices in law enforcement.” Hoch also did not commit to retaining the police chief.
  • Nekima Levy-Pounds (D) advocated improvement in community-police relations, reducing racial profiling, and reducing recidivism by improving prisoner reentry programs. She supported retaining the new police chief, Arradondo, saying he had “earned the trust of a great number of people who typically do not trust police.”

Chicago 2019

Crime and policing in Chicago influenced the 2019 mayoral race in two ways. 

First, the city endured a spike in violent crime during the final years of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration with 762 murders occurring in 2016, the largest number of homicides in nearly 20 years. As part of his response, Emanuel launched a plan to add 1,000 officers to the police department. (Emanuel announced in September 2018 that he would not seek re-election).

Second, beginning in December 2015 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began an investigation of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) that resulted in a 2017 report stating officers had engaged “in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable.” This report recommended the city agree to a consent decree—a plan supervised by a federal judge. The decree began in March 2019, during Emanuel’s final months in office.  

The nonpartisan general election for mayor on February 26, 2019, included 14 candidates. The top two vote-getters advanced to a runoff election: Lori Lightfoot (D), a recent president of the Chicago Police Board and co-chair of the city’s Police Accountability Task Force, received 17.5 percent of the initial vote; and Toni Preckwinkle (D), president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, received 16 percent. In the April 2, 2019, runoff election between the two women, Lightfoot won with 73.7 percent.

The two top candidates had similar platforms on policing issues. 

Both touted the necessity of the consent decree, their eagerness to implement it, and each claimed to have superior professional experience for getting that job done:

  • Lightfoot’s campaign said her work as president of the Chicago Police Board was “the underpinning of the Obama-era Department of Justice report and the consent decree, which will be the basis for police reform and accountability.”
  • Preckwinkle pledged to make sure the CPD “fully complies with the mandates of the consent decree” and predicted it would bring about “better supervision and more appropriate, consistent training, both of which are necessary to create effective, constitutional policing.”

Each of their platforms implied a recognition of the need for police:

  • Preckwinkle said she wanted the police department to become the “most effective police department in the country, by improving training, supervision, promotion, collaboration and crime-solving capacity within the department and demanding real improvement in homicide clearance and overall crime reduction.” 
  • Lightfoot also pledged to improve the homicide clearance rate, and to address illegal gun possession and violence through “a proactive, coordinated response led by federal law enforcement officials, strengthening state and federal gun laws, creating a centralized department within CPD responsible for tracking illegal guns throughout the city, and strategically deploying police cameras in neighborhoods.”

The Ballotpedia account provides no evidence that either candidate opposed Emanuel’s effort to hire 1,000 additional officers, or that they proposed reducing the number of officers or police department funding.

Ballotpedia is providing coverage of every major mayoral election occurring during the 2020 election, as well as all other major federal and state races. Click the “learn more” button for more information on 2020 mayoral elections.



St. Paul school board representative Xiong dies of COVID-19

Marny Xiong, who was an at-large representative on the St. Paul Board of Education, died of COVID-19 on June 7. Her family released a statement on June 8 notifying the public of her death.

Xiong tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, roughly one month before her death. Xiong’s sister posted publicly on Facebook on May 8 that Xiong had contracted the coronavirus and been hospitalized.

Xiong is the second local-level politician that Ballotpedia has identified to have died as a result of COVID-19. The first was Jersey City Council representative Michael Yun, who died on April 6. Ballotpedia is covering the deaths, diagnoses, and quarantines of political incumbents, candidates, and government officials resulting from COVID-19, as well as individuals confirmed to have been tested and found not to carry COVID-19.

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Justice Paul Thissen will run for a full term on the Minnesota Supreme Court

On May 19, 2020, Justice Paul Thissen announced that he had filed to run in the 2020 election for the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“I am excited to launch my campaign, even in these trying circumstances… My first years as a justice have confirmed how deeply our courts touch the lives of Minnesotans in the most fundamental ways,” Thissen said.

Thissen filed for the ballot by mail due to changes that the state made to its election procedures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The filing period is open until 5 p.m. on June 2.

Judges of the Minnesota Supreme Court are chosen in nonpartisan elections to six-year terms. Interim vacancies are filled via gubernatorial appointment. Appointed judges serve until the next general election occurring more than one year after their appointment. They may then stand for election to a full term, and other candidates may file to run against them. Each current member of the state supreme court was initially appointed rather than elected.

Thissen was first appointed to the court in 2018 by Gov. Mark Dayton (D). He was appointed to fill the vacancy of Justice David Stras, who was appointed by President Donald Trump (R) to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Thissen was Gov. Dayton’s fifth appointment to the state supreme court.

The primary election for Justice Thissen’s seat on the state supreme court will take place on August 11, 2020. The general election for the seat will take place on November 3, 2020.

Before becoming a state supreme court justice, Thissen was a registered member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party and served in the state legislature for eight terms.

He served as Speaker of the House and Minority Leader. He ran for governor in 2010 but suspended his campaign when he was considered as an applicant to fill the vacancy on the state supreme court.

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Minnesota Gov Tim Walz (D) appoints Gordon Moore to state Supreme Court

On May 15, 2020 Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced District Court Justice Gordon Moore as his first appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Justice David Lillehaug intends to resign in July 2020, and Justice Moore will take his seat on the bench.

Lillehaug has served on the Minnesota Supreme Court since 2013, and announced that he would retire due to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. If Justice Lillehaug had not resigned from the court, he would face nonpartisan election to keep his seat on the bench.

There are seven justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Justices in Minnesota are selected through nonpartisan elections, but in the case of a vacancy the governor appoints a replacement. Each justice currently sitting on the Minnesota Supreme Court was initially placed on the court by the governor to fill a vacancy. Five of the seven justices have been appointed by Democratic governors, and two have been appointed by Republican governors.

When Gov. Walz announced Justice Moore’s appointment, said, “Supreme Court Justices decide some of the most pressing and significant questions of our time, and the feedback from Judge Moore’s peers was resounding: he is a brilliant jurist and a leader in his community. He has spent his career working hard for the people of Southern Minnesota, and he will bring a fair and respected voice to the Minnesota Supreme Court.”

In addition to his judicial experience, Justice Moore served as special assistant and assistant attorney general under Attorney General Skip Humphrey, a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

Although the appointment of Justice Moore means that Minnesotans will not vote in a nonpartisan election to fill Justice Lillehaug’s seat, Paul Thissen will be subject to retention through nonpartisan election on November 3, 2020.

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Minnesota governor extends stay-at-home order

On April 30, 2020, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced that the state’s stay-at-home order was extended through May 18. Prior to the announcement, the stay-at-home order was in effect through May 4.
So far, 43 of the 50 states issued statewide shutdown orders. Eight of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 announced end dates.
Although the names of the orders—shelter-in-place, stay-at-home, stay home, stay safe—vary from state to state, they include at least two common elements: the closure of nonessential businesses and requesting all residents to stay home except for essential trips.


Judge Segal appointed chief judge of Minnesota Court of Appeals

Gov. Tim Walz (D) appointed judge Susan Segal as chief judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals on April 13. Segal will serve the remainder of Edward J. Cleary’s term as chief of the court, which ends on October 31, 2022. Cleary announced his retirement effective April 30 in the fall of 2019.

Segal becomes the second woman to serve as chief judge in the 36 years since the advent of the court. Walz first appointed her to the appellate court in November 2019 following the retirement of Jill Flaskamp Hallbrooks. Segal previously worked as an attorney at several firms and served as the Minneapolis City Attorney for twelve years.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals, created in 1983, is the intermediate appellate court in Minnesota and was designed to relieve the volume of cases that go to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals’ decisions are the final ruling in about 95 percent of the 2,000 to 2,400 appeals filed every year. Typically, approximately 5 percent of the court’s decisions are accepted by the Minnesota Supreme Court for further review.

The judges on the court are nonpartisan, but party-affiliated governors select the members of the bench. Of the nineteen judges currently serving on the court, 12 were appointed by Democratic governors and seven were appointed by Republican governors.

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