The commission in charge of approving language that could remove the Minneapolis Police Department from the city charter took first steps in the process, and indicated it would try to meet deadlines — but at the same time not rush to finish.
If approved by voters in the fall, the City Council could eliminate the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. The new department could include licensed peace officers.
Minneapolis Charter Commissioner Jana Metge said she’s heard from people who want reforms made to the Police Department. But she wants to know why the charter has to be amended.
"I keep hearing the reason for changing the charter,” said Metge. “And the reasons that I am hearing — it can still happen, with the charter as is. And so, I think it would be really important to hear from the authors."
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The commission adopted Metge’s proposal to invite the City Council members who authored the proposal to appear at the commission’s next regularly scheduled meeting, July 8. They also agreed to extend an invitation to Mayor Jacob Frey.
Nine City Council members in early June declared their commitment to dismantling the Police Department in the wake of the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd. The council last week unanimously approved the proposal to change the city charter.
Metge and other commissioners rejected the idea of using next week’s meeting for public testimony as too soon to prepare. Instead, the first of two online hearings will be held in two weeks. The second date will be determined by a commission subgroup. City officials say the commission has already received around 4,600 comments from the public.
The commission also agreed to work within an accelerated schedule that could make it possible to meet the Aug. 21 deadline to allow the language on the November ballot. However, the 15-member body did not explicitly pledge to finish its evaluation in time for that to happen.
The commission may take as much as 150 days to make a recommendation about the proposed language. The body can accept, reject or offer an amendment to the council’s language. The council is not legally bound to follow the commission’s decisions. But it can’t go forward until the commission finishes its review.
Commission Chair Barry Clegg said the body will decide at its Aug. 5 meeting whether it will make a decision or take more time.
"If we elect to take our additional time, this ballot question will not be on the ballot in November,” said Clegg.