Minneapolis Charter Commission delays vote on removing police department, keeping it off November ballot

An amendment to change the Minneapolis city charter to remove the police department will not appear on the November ballot after the charter commission has voted to delay its decision on the matter.

Commissioners decided Wednesday afternoon to take another 90-days to consider a proposal from the city council to alter the charter.

Under the proposal, language requiring the city council to fund a police department would be removed, along with the entire structure of the department, and be replaced with a separate department for community safety.

By voting to delay the decision on the amendment, the commission also prevents action by the Minneapolis City Council which would have allowed them to bypass the commission and put the amendment on the ballot anyway.

Because of the vote, no action on the amendment can be done for 90 days, which takes the amendment process pass the November general election.

In the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, a group of councilmembers have rallied together, calling for the police department to be defunded.

Right now, the charter requires the city council to main funding for the police department based on population size. The council's proposal would not only remove that requirement along with the department, but it would also change the oversight of the new department.

Under the proposal, the council would be tasked with appointing the head of the community safety department. Currently, the mayor's office is given full purview over the police department including hiring a police chief.

The changes to the charter would need to be approved by voters. Councilmembers had hoped to have the measure included on the November ballot.

In a statement on Wednesday, councilmembers said voters should get to decide on the change -- not 15 members of the charter commission.

"It is our legacy in the US to use voting to decide our future, whether that be by representative democracy or direct democracy,” wrote Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison in a statement. "It is not our legacy to use bureaucratic processes to circumvent the people in an attempt to 'protect' voters from themselves. That is not democracy. In a democracy, the people decide. But I guess today the Charter Commission decided otherwise."

"The Charter Commission’s decision will not stop our work to make sure every single member of our community is safe," added Council President Lisa Bender. "We will continue to invest in violence prevention and to reimagine public safety with our residents."

In a statement, Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes completely defunding the police department, also promised to push for more reform within policing.

"I look forward to working with Chief Arradondo, my council colleagues, and community to transform the culture of policing in our city in the months ahead," the mayor said. "Now it is on all of us to roll up our sleeves and dig into this work together."

However, charter commissioners voiced concerns on Wednesday that the process was moving too quick and any major changes, like the ones proposed by the city council, should be reviewed.

If the commission ultimately rejects the amendment, the city council does have the power to override the commission and get the measure on the ballot. But, we're told the council cannot act until the commission makes a decision.

Last week, the charter commission also rejected a separate proposal submitted by a commissioner that would have simply removed the language requiring the city council to fund the department.