Minneapolis voters chose to retain the police department. Is it still possible to reform the police?

After voters in Minneapolis rejected a proposal Tuesday to replace the city’s troubled police department with a Department of Public Safety, legal experts warned that its failure could be an indictment of police reform efforts.

The action, arising out of anger and frustration after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis last year, has been closely watched as an indication of the future success of similar attempts to fundamentally change policing in cities across the country.

The proposal lost 12 percentage points, according to Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office.

“It sounds like the ultimate attack of the ‘defund’ movement,” said Rachel Moran, a law professor at St. Thomas University School of Law in Minnesota. “I think it’s a lot more complicated than that. It is worth paying attention to the concerns of the people who voted “no”. It’s also worth noting the extent to which Minneapolis residents resent the police.”

Moran said she believes the “no” vote was not an endorsement by the police department. She said it was an expression of concern about what “yes” meant.

“It’s really easy to pay a little attention from another city, see that in the city that is arguably the epicenter of the movement to change the police, and say, ‘Well, you failed here. It won’t work for us either.'” “The truth is, I think this was a very complex and very delicate decision.”

The scale known as Question 2, residents asked if the city’s charter should be amended to remove the police department and “replace it with a Department of Public Safety” focused on public health. He called for the removal of minimum police staffing levels in the city and would have given the city council more control over law enforcement and public safety.

The Minneapolis city clerk said turnout in the mayoral and city council elections, which also included elections for mayor and city council, was 54 percent of registered voters — the highest turnout in only out-of-year mayoral elections in at least 45 years.

While proponents of the police measure insisted that the police would remain part of the new department and shied away from describing it as a plan to abolish or neutralize the police, opponents focused on ballot language, which she said “could include ‘licensed police officers’ if necessary.”

Sharon Smith-Akensanya, a Minneapolis resident who is a strategy and communications advisor to All of Mpls, the organization formed in opposition to holding the ballot, said it failed because “there was no clear plan outlined through the creation of a Department of Public Safety.”

Residents were essentially asked to vote for an outline, the details of which would later be filled in by government officials.

Moran said she suspects the initiative may have failed because residents were voting for the mayor and city council members who, if the measure succeeded, would have determined what the new district would look like, without knowing who would be in those roles.

Like Moran, Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor and professor at St. Thomas University School of Law in Minnesota, said he doesn’t believe the botched action will hamper efforts to change the culture of police departments elsewhere in the country.

He said people should view Tuesday’s election results “as a mixed bag, because you have voters in Austin, Texas, rejecting a proposal that would have mandated more police.”

Mixed results were in other cities, too. In Seattle, the candidates who called “police defunding” seemed to be They are outnumbered by their more moderate opponents, according to early results. But in Des Moines, Iowa, a Black Lives Matter campaigner who ran on the “defund” podium won the two-term incumbent for a seat on the Des Moines city council.

Miski Nour, 36, a co-founder of Black Visions, which organized voters to support the Minneapolis initiative, took some relief with the results: 62,813 people, or 43.83 percent of voters, supported the measure.

“I am definitely disappointed that the procedure did not pass,” Noor said. “And I also find myself really optimistic.”

Noor, who uses their pronouns, said they don’t think 43 percent is “something to sneeze at.”

“We didn’t get out of the water,” Nour said. “We were in the fight.” Sixty thousand people in Minneapolis voted for a new vision of public safety.

Black Visions, an organization She says she aims To “Dismantle Systems of Violence,” she is also part of Yes 4 Minneapolis, the coalition that collected 22,000 signatures to put the item on the ballot.

“We tripled that 22,000 to over 60,000 votes,” Nour said. “And what it tells me is that there is a lot of momentum and a lot of excitement and people who are really ready for this new vision for safety and really investors.”

Some opposition to the measure came from people in predominantly black neighborhoods at a time when the city had homicide rates not seen since the mid-1990s.

“For a lot of these people, the conversation was, ‘Of course, we want better police, but we still want them a lot,’” Moran said. “And in fact, some people want more policing.”

There have been at least 80 murders this year in Minneapolis. The city is on pace to break the records it set in the 1990s, when Minneapolis was nicknamed “Morderapolis.”

But Osler said the failure of that measure, even during a period of high crime, “demonstrates our reluctance to turn things around in a systematic way.”

He said the polling scale was an attempt to change the culture of the police department that “Derek Chauvin” gave us, who was captured in a video clip on May 25, 2020, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was convicted of murder and sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison.

To say, ‘Let’s keep doing things as we are,’ Osler said, ‘when it doesn’t work, it doesn’t really seem to cure that problem.’

Both opponents and supporters said they would continue to fight for police accountability.

Smith Akinsanya, who opposed the measure, said both sides had common concerns.

“The reason the scale got 43 percent is because people still want change,” she said. “It all means we’re both looking for the same thing. We just have to figure out how to get there.”

Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat who led the city when Floyd was killed and was elected to a second term this week, pledged, among other things, to appoint “community-oriented officers” and “get serious about reform at a multi-level.” Elimination level. He campaigned to improve the existing police department.

In his victory speech on Wednesday, Frye said: “Anyone who wishes to work with us, even when I disagree, we are willing to do so in good faith, in good faith being the important piece.”

“All work on safety and accountability is complex — you can’t fix any of it with a hashtag or a logo,” Frey said.

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