Crime, Law and Justice

New plan for Minneapolis police overhaul follows familiar model

Demonstrators carry signs.
Demonstrators calling to defund the Minneapolis Police Department march on Hennepin Avenue on June 6, 2020, in Minneapolis. The march, organized by the Black Visions Collective, commemorated the life of George Floyd.
Stephen Maturen | Getty Images 2020

Under a proposed charter amendment launched Friday by members of the Minneapolis City Council, the city’s Police Department would become one part of an agency similar to Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety.

The plan led by council members Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher and Jeremy Schroeder seeks to create an agency led by a commissioner which would include a division of law enforcement services made up of sworn police  officers. That division would be overseen by a chief.

The language of the proposal “is more straightforward, in alignment with the rest of the charter’s plain language style,” said Cunningham. “The details of the organizational structure, like the specific lines of business and operational details will be codified in ordinance, rather than the charter itself.”

Those details will likely be debated and voted on in the weeks and months to come.

The move to make substantial changes was driven by protests and criticism of the police after George Floyd died while being held down by officers and video of his pleading with police to let him breathe was shared around the world. Derek Chauvin, who is shown kneeling on Floyd’s back and neck, is expected to be the first officer tried in March.

Like the council’s previous attempt to overhaul the Police Department, this proposal would eliminate the current minimum requirement for the number of sworn police officers. And it would also remove the section of the charter which gives the mayor control of the police. Under the new proposal, the council would share oversight responsibilities with the mayor.

Last year, the city’s Charter Commission kept another council-led public safety measure off the ballot after commissioners decided to take more time to review it. Many commissioners complained that the language of the proposal was too vague and the process was too rushed.

The commission can take up to five months to review the language before voters will get a chance to weigh in on this November’s ballot.

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