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Council takes next step in Mpls. charter change

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Police form a line in the street as a crowd grows.
Police form a line in the street as a crowd grew in response to an officer-involved shooting, June 23, 2018, in Minneapolis.
Aaron Lavinsky | Star Tribune via AP file

 Updated: 3:20 p.m. | Posted: 4:00 a.m.

A controversial amendment to the Minneapolis city charter that would grant more power to the council over police policy took another step forward Friday. Members of the city council voted by a 7 to 5 margin to send the proposed language ahead to the city's charter commission. 

The proposal still faces a few more obstacles. Mayor Jacob Frey could veto it. 

"I am still adamantly opposed to this amendment and the chief of police is still adamantly opposed. He has made it exceedingly clear that this would make his job far more difficult," Frey said Friday. He and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo say the amendment could, in effect, delay responses to urgent issues from minutes to hours.

Friday morning's vote follows a hearing on Wednesday that led to hours of often passionate public feedback

Ward 2 Council Member Cam Gordon, who introduced the proposal, says he believes the change would help the Council take more control from the police chief over the department's use of force policy.

"There are some council members who are very interested in police training, how can they be equipped and educated in the best way for issues like understanding mental health issues, how to use deescalation, what kind of role implicit bias might play and this will be an opportunity for people to get involved and engaged," Gordon said.

It's possible there won't be enough time to get the measure ready for this fall's ballot. The Minneapolis Charter Commission can take between 60 and 150 days to make a decision.  The deadline to get the proposal on the ballot is Aug. 24.

Charter commission chair Barry Clegg said commissioners would like to hold several public hearings before making a decision.

"I can't say whether that will meet the council's time line or not," said Clegg. He said the council is "free to put on its original amendment, regardless of what the charter commission has recommended."

However, the council will need nine votes to override a veto by Mayor Jacob Frey.

Calls for police reform have echoed throughout the marble hallways of City Hall for years. Those demands have recently become louder after police fatally shot Thurman Blevins. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced earlier this week that officers Justin Schmidt and Ryan Kelly were justified in using lethal force and declined to file criminal charges.

Many of the dozens of people who spoke at a public hearing Wednesday in council chambers called for the officers to be fired and jailed. At the hearing, police reform advocates like Nekima Levy-Pounds voiced skepticism that council members will actually hold police officers accountable — even if they are granted more authority.

"Most of you have remained silent or lacked the political will to do a damn thing about the issues we're sitting here talking about," Levy-Pounds said. "To think you would suddenly do an about-face and change your behavior and mentality about holding the police accountable would be asinine on our parts to believe."