Activists in Minneapolis who had hoped to remove and reimagine the police department were dealt a major blow on Tuesday when voters overwhelmingly rejected a provision that would have replaced the current police structure.
The effort to swap the current Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety failed 56% to 44%.
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The ballot provision, which came 18 months after the murder of George Floyd, was birthed out of the “defund the police” movement and was seen as deeply divisive among Minneapolis residents.
Despite calls to change police practices following Floyd’s death, critics noted the police force is already diminished from 853 officers in 2019 to just 598 in 2021. Some felt it would be dangerous to cut additional officers or to dramatically change the system in the midst of the current crime surge.
“I kind of trembled a little bit in the voting booth today because I live in one of the neighborhoods most impacted by crime and violence,” a Minneapolis voter named Sondra Samuels told Fox News. “We can have reform and we can have enough police to keep our children, our elderly safe. So this was a win tonight.”
The proposed Department of Public Safety provision would have amended the Minneapolis city charter to remove language centered on policing, including funding provisions and other structural elements.
The language on the ballot asked if voters wanted to “remove the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions by the Department of Public Safety.”
The entirety of the new structure wasn’t mapped out and the finer details would have been decided between the city council and the mayor following its passage. The new body would have likely relied upon mental health personnel and other staff to join law enforcement in a more “comprehensive public health approach.”
But the size and scope of the police force under the new guidance seemed unclear. The ballot initiative said the proposed Department of Public Safety “could include licensed peace officers … if necessary.”
In the end, 80,506 voters rejected the measure while only 62,813 approved it.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, the group that petitioned for the ballot measure, expressed disappointment over the results.
“We changed the conversation about what public safety should look like,” Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign manager Corenia Smith said in a statement to KSTP-TV. “We showed the country and the world the power of democracy and the power of the people. Now, we will work to hold leaders and the system accountable. We will work to heal our city and create safer streets for all our communities.”
Despite Tuesday night’s failure to reimagine policing in Minneapolis, the issue is no doubt on Americans’ minds and reform discussions will certainly continue in cities across America.
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