Members of the Minneapolis Charter Commission say now is not the right time for major changes to the city’s Police Department. The commission voted Wednesday to reject a measure that would have allowed voters to eliminate a minimum funding requirement for the Minneapolis Police Department which is currently in the city charter.
The commission voted 8-6, with one member absent, to reject a proposal offered by Commissioner Alvaro Giraud-Isaacson. His proposal would have let voters decide if the charter should contain a staffing formula for the Police Department or not.
Supporters said the nearly 60-year-old funding requirement for the Police Department shouldn't be in the charter in the first place. No other city department has such a provision.
Commissioner Jan Sandberg said the amendment to eliminate the requirement is simple and straightforward.
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"I review charters from a few other cities,” she said. “There's nothing similar in any of those. It makes no sense to me in times of technological and social change to require minimum funding."
Other supporters said eliminating the requirement would force the mayor and council to work together to decide what the proper size of the force should be.
But opponents said now is not the time. Commissioner Jana Metge said given the current uptick in crime, there needs to be a more solid plan put forward to help people understand what will happen to them if the city defunds the Police Department.
Commissioner Matt Perry added that the City Council had already signaled its plans during the most recent budget process.
"They are intent on defunding the police,” he said. “So I think having the provision in the charter to have a minimum number of officers and employees in the department is a wise one at this time."
Comments like that led several commissioners to pose that the body needed to have a larger discussion about what its role really is.
“Some people seem to think our job is to put up guardrails to political mistakes made by the council or the mayor,” said Commissioner Greg Abbott. “I don't think that's our role here."
The Charter Commission will vote next week to either accept, reject or amend a City Council-led ballot proposal to replace the department with another public safety agency.
Commissioner Dan Cohen said if voters pass the council’s amendment in November, the city will suffer.
"Crime would soar. Property values on our homes would fall as residents — both Black and white — would flee the city," said Cohen, who was a member of the Minneapolis City Council in the late 1960s.
He added that he saw that happen in the wake of unrest which shook Minneapolis more than 50 years ago.
“I don’t care to repeat the experience. And I don’t care to inflict the repetition of the experience on my fellow residents,” he said.
The commission can block the council’s amendment if it decides to take more time. At this point, none of the commissioners said they would take that course.