Minneapolis measure to replace police department will leave voters disappointed, expert says

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Minneapolis residents planning to vote in favor of a ballot measure next week that would replace the city’s police department will be disappointed if it passes, according to law enforcement experts.

Ballot question No. 2 will ask voters Nov. 2 if they prefer to amend the city’s charter to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety that would be responsible for “a comprehensive public health approach to safety.”

It needs 51% of voter approval to pass. 

“Frankly, I find it disingenuous,” Betsy Smith, a spokesperson for the National Police Association who spent 29 years as a Chicago-area police officer, told Fox News. “I think there are going to be people who are going to vote for this thinking, ‘Yay, we’re going to abolish the police’ and that’s not what’s happening.”

Police investigate a shooting as protesters gather on Thursday, June 3, 2021 in Minneapolis. 
(Richard.Tsong-Taatari/Star Tribune via AP)

The measure was put on the ballot after Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of businesses and organizations, gathered 22,000 signatures to do so. 

The city became the epicenter of the police reform movement following the death of George Floyd, who died last year during an encounter with Minneapolis police officers. Floyd’s death unleashed a racial reckoning on police tactics and social injustice.

Supporters of the measure have said it will not defund or abolish the police department. Instead, police officers won’t respond to every call for service in cases where mental health counselors and other professionals are needed instead, citing police shootings that have stemmed from mental health-related calls. 

The question was put on the ballot because thousands of residents recognize the Minneapolis Police Department has a “fundamental flaw and cultural problem that made the city of Minneapolis the epicenter of a global reckoning on race, ” Yes 4 Minneapolis spokesman Javier Morillo told Fox News.

“What people tend to say, and especially voters of color, is, ‘What I want is something very simple. I want to be able to call for help when I need it, and I want to be able to not fear that help when it arrives,'” Morillo said. He said the group’s vision is “public safety that prioritizes a public health lens so that we ensure that professionals who are trained in their fields are responding to calls that are relevant to those fields.”

Black Lives Matter protesters, including Markeanna Tyus, center left, and Isis Atallah, center right, stand in the middle of 3rd Avenue South as they prepare to march from the Hennepin County Government Center to demand justice for Jacob Blake. (Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via AP)

Smith said police departments already have social workers who respond to calls. She noted that the Minneapolis Police Department is one of the most progressive in that it has always had some of the best training and equipment. 

In addition, changing public safety agencies will cost the city millions, she said. 

“To restructure a public safety organization, it will take years,” she said. “The city is still going to have to deal with the promises they made to these police officers as far as pension and insurance. Now you’re going to have to spend a lot of money on [new] training. Just think about how much it’s going to cost to change the name of everything on patches, cars, business cards, doorways.

“This is going to be a very expensive venture.”

Fox News has reached out to the MPD. 

Morillo said the change is needed given the city’s charter has given the Minneapolis Police Federation, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, leverage over the city during contract negotiations. 

“Until we take on that power directly, the union that is able to keep bad cops on the street will be able to keep doing that,” he said. 

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo addresses the media regarding the proposed charter amendment that would replace the police department during a new conference at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church Wednesday. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

The ballot question had divided Minnesota Democrats with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who is running for a second term, Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in opposition. On Wednesday, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo urged voters to reject the proposal. 

“To vote on a measure of reimagining of public safety without a solid plan and an implementation or direction of work, this is too critical of a time to wish and hope for that help that we need so desperately right now,” he told reporters. 

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, and state Attorney General Keith Ellison have publicly supported the measure. 

As of Friday, nearly 21,000 Minneapolis residents have cast ballots, according to the city’s early voting dashboard. 

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