3 Minneapolis residents sue city over police ballot question

A new lawsuit aims to change the wording on the November ballot regarding police and public safety.  

This is another twist in an ongoing and controversial effort to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety.  

"This is so complicated it’s like putting a Band-Aid, literally, on a mortal wound," said Don Samuels, one of the lawsuit filers.  

Don and Sondra Samuels live in north Minneapolis. They say for them crime and public safety isn’t a political football, it's life. They say they filed the lawsuit for their neighbors and the community they love. The couple wants to change the wording of the public safety ballot question, saying right now it’s "incomplete" and "misleading."

"So we are an experiment," said Sondra Samuels. "We are coming against this vague language because we will not be a human sacrifice. And that’s what we are right now, and you know who the human sacrifices are on this experiment? Black people."

Currently the ballot question reads:

"Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to strike and replace the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety which could include licensed peace officers (police officers), if necessary, with administrative authority to be consistent with other city departments to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety?"

The voter will mark "yes" or "no."

Don Samuels argues the word "replace" is incorrect, saying the police department isn’t being "replaced" because the charter amendment wouldn’t transfer any of the functions of the police department to the new public safety department. He also says there are many other misleading words like "could" and "if necessary."

"So if you say could, it is not should, it’s not shall, it’s not will, it’s not must… it’s a maybe," he said.

The lawsuit says there are also important details left out of the question. For example, the new department would report to 13 city council members and the mayor, instead of just the mayor.

"I don’t know if you’ve ever had 14 bosses - you haven’t - because it’s not possible," said Sondra Samuels.

The Samuels say the wording was not designed in conversation with the community, which they say is maddening.  

"This ballot question right now the way it is framed, does not account for all of the people shot and murdered this year. It discounts that," said Sondra Samuels.

Tuesday, Minneapolis Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said they support the charter amendment. Last week Governor Tim Walz and Senator Amy Klobuchar announced they are against it.  Police Chief Medaria Arradondo also personally released a statement that speaks to the structure of the new department reporting to fourteen people

"I've seen firsthand that operational efficiency is essential to both building trust and public safety, and our city's public safety could be compromised with additional layers of bureaucracy," said Arradondo in a statement.

He goes on to say with 14 different people to report to "it would not just be confusing... it would be a wholly unbearable position for any law enforcement leader or police chief."

Early voting begins Sept. 17, so the Samuels believe a decision on the lawsuit should come in a few days.

FOX 9 has reached out to the city attorney's office for a statement regarding the lawsuit. 

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