Minneapolis voters rejected activists’ attempts to eliminate the city’s police department and create a new one that is more focused on public safety.
Minneapolis voters rejected Question 2 by a 44% to 56% vote. This would have changed the charter of the city to eliminate the police department. The same thing would have led to the creation of the Department of Public Safety. Its primary purpose would have been to “integrate its public safety function into a comprehensive, public approach towards safety,” with licensed peace officers as necessary.
After the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May 2020, a massive nationwide push to reform policing also gave more attention and visibility to activists with a more radical idea—abolishing the police and replacing them with an approach that focuses on the public health issues that underlie a lot of criminal activities, like mental health issues, drug addiction, and extreme poverty.
Choosing “abolish the police” as a slogan was perhaps not a winning marketing plan—most people want police to actually fight crimes and arrest criminals who threaten harm even if people don’t necessarily agree on what constitutes criminal behavior. The Associated Press spoke to a Minneapolis black resident to find out if there is a middle ground. He said that cops shouldn’t beat people for no reason, but it was possible to abolish policing completely and leave the community without any decent responses to violence.
Everybody agrees we need the police held responsible and that fair policing is what we seek. Marques Armstrong, Associated Press spokesperson said that no one had suggested we should get rid of police. There needs to be an overhaul of the entire system, but there must also be some community safety. Over here, shots are being fired every day. Many local Democrats opposed the initiative, including Governor Tim Walz and Mayor Jacob Frey. Tim Walz opposed the initiative.
Yet, Question 2 received 44% of the votes, which indicates that not everyone is happy with the status quo. As Armstrong noted, Minneapolis citizens do want reforms and accountability for their police—not necessarily some vague promises of reforming what police do. There was no way to know what Question 2 would bring about. The Department of Public Safety description stated plainly that the new agency could hire several hundred police officers. While the concept seemed bold, it may have ended up being a continuation of the status quo. Nothing in Question 2 actually held police accountable for their bad behavior or gave citizens additional tools to monitor them.
The Minneapolis election is a contrast to Tuesday’s different result in Cleveland. Voters in that city overwhelmingly supported Issue 24, which is a proposal to amend the charter of the city to increase citizen oversight and give officers more power. This gives the Civilian Police Review Board of the city the ability to make complaints about officers. The mayor also has the ability to remove the members. In Issue 24, a thirteen-member Community Police Commission is established. This commission will determine if the Civilian Police Review Board or the Police Chief have appropriately disciplined any officers who are found guilty of misconduct. It also has the ability to establish policies and procedures for hiring and training police officers.
This is a huge deal. Issue 24 was passed with almost 60 percent of votes. It was opposed by the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association union, which is vowing to challenge it in court. Jeff Folmer of the union said that the idea of officers being held responsible by citizens for their conduct “will spell doom for Cleveland.”
Cleveland is plagued by a dysfunctional police department. However, it’s more worrying that cops in the city are allowed to engage in all manner of criminal behavior. Police in Cleveland shot 137 bullets at a car, killing 2 people because they thought there was a gunshot. There was no gun found. A judge cleared one officer, who jumped onto the car’s hood and fired 15 shots into the vehicle. They couldn’t prove the bullets had actually struck the victims.
Tamir Rice was only 12 years old at the time of his death. Timothy Loehmann was responding to a call about a gunman in a park. Rice was carrying a fake toy gun. Loehmann fired on Rice immediately after arriving on the scene. Rice never had the opportunity to answer or surrender. Loehmann got fired for lying about his application and hiding the fact that another department had declared him unfit to serve. In Cuyahoga county, a grand jury declined to indict Loehmann. Loehmann was terminated by the police union, and they tried to reinstate him.
Two plainclothes Cleveland cops assaulted an older man from his porch. They then arrested him, allegedly not identifying themselves. Might Judge granted them qualified immunity to stop the man from trying to make him financially responsible for their actions.
So it’s not surprising that the result of the Cleveland election was so different from Minneapolis. Cleveland voters received a detailed and specific plan (16 pages) that showed how they would be able to direct police behavior. Minneapolis voters received two paragraphs that vaguely described a new police department.