Minneapolis council takes steps to put police department changes before voters

Gathering at Powderhorn Park
Nine Minneapolis City Council members declared their commitment to defunding and dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department during a gathering at Powderhorn Park on Sunday along with the community groups Black Visions and Reclaim The Block.
Liam James Doyle for MPR News file

The Minneapolis City Council began the process of ending the city's Police Department as it currently exists.

The council voted Friday to amend the meeting's agenda by adding two items: One begins efforts toward getting a charter amendment referendum on the November ballot. The proposal would eliminate the Minneapolis Police Department as a charter department and create a new public safety organization. The other adds a resolution to create the process allowing city staff to take steps toward developing what they call a “transformative new model” for public safety. That process is expected to take a year.

Currently, the city of Minneapolis is required under the charter to fund a police department. If voters favor excising the Minneapolis Police Department from the charter, the council could then abolish it.

A majority of council members have said they favor dismantling the Police Department.

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Minneapolis City Council members discuss defunding police department
Minneapolis City Council member Phillipe Cunningham speaks to a crowd gathered at Powderhorn Park on Sunday as he and eight other Minneapolis City Council members declared their commitment to defunding and dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department.
Liam James Doyle for MPR News

Minneapolis council member Phillipe Cunningham said the council has to continue what residents are calling for.

"We cannot proceed with any new system of cultivating public safety without them being co-designed with communities and centering black and brown communities who are disproportionately affected not only by police violence but by community violence as well," Cunningham said.

The deadline for getting the language approved for the ballot is Aug. 21. The council will have to submit the language to the Charter Commission which can take as long as five months to consider. So, they'll have to expedite their review in order to make it.

At the end of their consideration period, the commission can accept the language as is, reject it or offer different wording. Either way, the council still has the final decision. The council will also likely include at least one public hearing on the charter language before it submits its proposal to Minneapolis' Charter Commission.

Council member Steve Fletcher said taking action on the charter amendment right away was important to give the council more flexibility in being able to make changes down the road.

"What I really don't want to do is to have a community engagement process move forward where people develop a brilliant vision and then find out that that vision isn't legally allowed by the charter. And that we're not going to be able to enact that vision," Fletcher said.