A ballot measure in Minneapolis to replace the police department failed by double digits on Tuesday, likely dealing a major blow to nationwide efforts by left-wing progressives to ‘defund’ and replace departments.
According to reports, the measure, known as Question 2, was rejected by a margin of 56 percent to 43 percent in the city where George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in May 2020, setting off nationwide unrest, violence, and the biggest police reform movement in decades.
The initiative called for replacing the MPD with a new Department of Public Safety that would have been overseen by the mayor and the 13-member city council, versus just the mayor who oversees the current police department. The new agency called for “a comprehensive public health approach” to law enforcement that may include traditional cops “if necessary.” Also, the measure would have done away with a mandatory minimum number of sworn police officers enshrined in the city’s charter.
“Supporters had pitched the proposed charter amendment as a chance to expand public safety, arguing it would allow city leaders to design a department where mental health and social work professionals worked alongside traditional police,” Axios reported.
However, city residents had expressed increased concerns over a steep rise in crime in many parts of the city prior to Tuesday’s vote. There was also some confusion as to how the new public safety department would have actually functioned.
The measure also had political implications for Democrats around the country and in Minnesota, as lawmakers and activists were divided on the issue.
“We’ve always known our work is bigger than one election,” said a statement from TakeAction Minnesota, which supported the measure. “Social change is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Meanwhile, Leili Fatehi, campaign manager for All of Mpls, the lead opposition group, noted that voters “made clear that they want a planful approach to transforming policing and public safety,” while calling on city officials to now “roll up their sleeves and carry out this public mandate in good faith and without delay.”
The vote came about six months after former MPD officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd, which touched off months of violence and protests around the country.
One advocate for Question 2, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who represents Minneapolis, urged residents to support the measure earlier this fall.
“We have an opportunity, once and for all, to listen to those most impacted by police brutality and the communities who have been demanding change for decades,” Omar noted a Star Tribune op-ed. “We have a mandate, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, to deliver a public safety system rooted in compassion, humanity and love, and to deliver true justice. I hope we fulfill it.”
But most city residents weren’t convinced.
Nekima Armstrong, a prominent activist, civil rights lawyer, and longtime Minneapolis resident told Yahoo News that Question 2, had it already been in effect, would not have helped Floyd.
“This wouldn’t have saved George Floyd’s life,” she said. “They’re doing this in his name, but in that situation, the store owner would have still called the cops.”
“There hasn’t been enough research and no engagement with the Black community for this,” she added. “Then claiming this is for BIPOC communities? This raises a lot of red flags. We want to ensure high-quality services and end police being able to kill people with impunity. … The folks on the ground did not ask for this.”
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