'Flatlining': MPD chief warns yes-vote on police overhaul will hurt Minneapolis

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaks during a press conference at St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. He said next week's ballot measure could damage the city and the department if approved.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Updated at 11:25 p.m.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Wednesday spoke out strongly against a November ballot measure intended to remake his department if approved by voters, warning the changes wouldn’t fix relations between residents and the police and could do serious damage to a department already severely understaffed.

In surprisingly frank remarks, the typically reserved Arradondo said the ballot provisions provided no specifics on what a remade public safety department might look like and that residents should not have to “wish or hope” about a plan before they vote.

While he said he never expected to see a detailed plan, “at this point, I would take a drawing on a napkin, and I have not seen either.”

His department, he added, is operating currently with only about two-thirds of its full staffing of officers. “We’re flatlining right now,” he told reporters.

The ballot question if approved “will not eliminate tragic incidents” between residents and officers or the public health crisis among the city’s Black population, he added. “It will not suddenly change the culture of a police department that’s been in existence 155 years.”

He indicated it would hurt efforts to recruit and retain officers and create a problematic supervisory system between the department and City Council, dismissing it as “not a business model we would give to children running a lemonade stand.”

Arradondo also took exception to language in the ballot question that police officers could be included “if necessary” in a future public safety agency and said that none of the people who wrote the language ever reached out to ask him his thoughts or advice on the matter.

In a video statement released Wednesday evening, Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign manager Corenia Smith said Question 2 offers a concrete plan to expand public safety in the city.

“Chief Arradondo is right. Our city is flatlining, and we ask too much of our police officers, all because our current approach to public safety is not working,” Smith said. “It’s not working for police officers, and not for Minneapolis residents.”

Smith criticized Arradondo for not disciplining a group of officers who fired foam marking rounds at civilians during the unrest last year.

Smith also said Arradondo violated his own policy by campaigning against the ballot measure while in uniform. 

The ballot measure to remake the department came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. While advocates of the measure say wholesale change is needed, residents are almost evenly divided.

An MPR News/Star Tribune/KARE 11/FRONTLINE Minnesota Poll in September showed 49 percent favor a new public safety department, which would also give the City Council more authority over public safety. Forty-one percent oppose it and 10 percent are undecided. 

A majority of voters polled said crime is rising and they don’t want to cut the size of the city’s police force.

Black voters were less likely to support the proposed public safety department than white voters and are more concerned that cutting the police force would have a negative effect on public safety. 

Some opponents of the measure have said it would defund the Minneapolis Police Department, although supporters say that’s not the case. Black voters were more likely to oppose the charter amendment than white voters. 

Graph of net approval for shrinking the Minneapolis Police Department

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