City Council OKs charter amendment to remove Minneapolis Police Department

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved a proposed amendment would remove requirements for the city to maintain a police department from the city’s charter. The 12-0 vote is step toward putting the issue in front of Minneapolis voters on the November ballot.

Under the current charter language, the city council is required to fund a police force of a size proportionate to the city's population. Changes being considered in the amendment would remove that requirement along with an entire section on the police department.

The proposal replaces that language with a new department: the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. It would be managed by the City Council, marking a key power shift for a council frustrated with limited authority.

“Using the bully pulpit, using the budget, using the chief’s appointment to try move things around a little bit, but I don’t think we’ve had the kind of policy-making participation that we should have,” said Council member Cam Gordon.

The changes also remove minimum officer requirements within the new community safety department, instead saying the council is responsible for "adequately funding" the replacement department.

Along with the department of community safety, the amendment would add a Division of Law Enforcement Services, which would be composed of "licensed peace officers" under the purview of the director of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

While the current charter language gives the mayor complete control over the police department, including hiring the chief, the new proposal would put the mayor in charge of nominating a director for the new department that would be appointed by the city council.

That person would be someone who has "non-law enforcement experience in community safety and violence prevention" which could include "public health and restorative justice approaches"

The appointed director would in turn choose the leader of the Law Enforcement Services Division.

It's unclear exactly how this structure would differ from the current police department structure.

While all support the switch, Council member Andrea Jenkins shared a word of caution not to forget the underlying reason of the change in the first place.

“We can change the name of public safety, you know, the makeup, but until we really address racism, nothing is going to change,” said Council member Andrea Jenkins.

The amendment will go ahead of the Charter Commission next week.

Mayor Jacob Frey reaction

Mayor Frey has previously shared that he does not support disbanding the police department - a stance which led to him being booed at a rally. After the vote Frey stood by his previous remarks saying he supports "deep structural reform" and "complete transformation" of the policing system. He criticized the amendment for lacking clarity moving forward. 

"This amendment to our legal city charter does not provide clarity. There are more questions I have regarding this amendment than answers," said Frey. "If this amendment passes will we still have police? If you vote for this, are you voting to abolish the police department? Or is this merely a cosmetic change where you add a bureaucratic layer, you change the name to peace officers and give them different uniforms?"

Frey also had questions about what the change would mean for Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo since the amendment creates a new director, preferably with a non-law enforcement background. Is he gone or demoted? Council members don’t know, but hope he’s involved.

“Chief Arradondo is the right leader to bring the law enforcement perspective of the work that is ahead of us,” said Council member Phillipe Cunningham.

Police union response

The Board of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis put out statement in response to the vote and criticized the amendment for lacking clarity.

“Public safety is a primary role of city government and the politicians in charge of the Minneapolis City Council are not putting the safety of residents and visitors to the city at the core of their actions. This charter amendment fails to clarify questions about what replaces the police department, how it will work, and what actual steps will be done to address and prevent crime. 

“It is irresponsible and a disservice to all Minneapolis residents to move forward without more clarity about what comes next. The members of the Minneapolis Police Department are committed to serve with honor and integrity, and stand ready to work with city leaders to improve community safety and trust, but this proposal leaves too many essential questions unanswered. 

“Politicians are good at making promises, but not at following through on them, and voters should be wary of any promises that delivered by the City Council about how they will figure it out when and if the charter amendment passes."