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3 Nov, 2021 10:06

Minneapolis votes to keep cops, rejects controversial plan to replace them with ‘peace officers’

Minneapolis votes to keep cops, rejects controversial plan to replace them with ‘peace officers’

Voters in Minneapolis have rejected a proposal to replace the local police force with a new public safety department – after months of calls for policing reform and nationwide unrest over the killing of George Floyd in the city.

The measure – proposed as a ballot question during municipal elections on Tuesday – would have amended the city’s charter to remove the Minneapolis Police Department in favor of “licensed peace officers” who would follow a “comprehensive public health approach” in their public safety functions. It would also have eliminated language from the charter related to minimum funding requirements.

The initiative was defeated by 56.17% to 43.83% on Tuesday, according to figures published by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. It needed 51% approval to pass. Although the post of mayor and city council seats were being contested, much of the focus was on ‘City Question 2’, which dealt with the proposed amendment.

Nearly 53% of voters also responded favorably to another ballot question about giving “administrative authority” over the city’s operating municipal departments to the mayor – similar to how the police department is presently organized.

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The newly created agency, which would have included police officers, would have been led by a commissioner nominated by the mayor and appointed by the city council. Its specific responsibilities would have been determined by city leadership “by ordinance.”

The measure was launched by Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of businesses and other bodies, which reportedly gathered 22,000 signatures to put it on the ballot. The group had said the move would not abolish or defund the police. Instead, it looked for “other types of professionals, experts and strategies in crisis response and violence prevention.”

“While this is not the result that we hoped for, the story of our movement must be told,” Yes 4 Minneapolis noted in a statement, adding that the campaign had grown into a “city-wide movement that spanned race, income, and neighborhoods, to give residents a say in their future and to advocate for the resources that they need.”

However, the ballot measure had been criticized from the outset as opponents raised concerns over its vague language and an apparent lack of clarity on how it would actually function. In September, the Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled that voters could decide on the initiative after it became the subject of legal challenges. The vote on Tuesday came as Minneapolis is experiencing an uptick in violent crime similar to other US cities.

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The issue had split Democrats, with some like incumbent Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz opposing it. Meanwhile, others like State Attorney General Keith Ellison – who oversaw the prosecution of police officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder – and Representative Ilhan Omar supported the measure.

Minneapolis, a city of some 430,000 residents, became ‘ground zero’ for the Black Lives Matter protests held across the US last year. In June, Chauvin, who had been filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck, was sentenced to prison for 22-and-a-half years.

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