Minneapolis voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal to replace the city’s police department with a new Department of Public Safety, an idea that supporters had hoped would bring radical change to policing in the city where George Floyd’s death under an officer’s knee brought calls for racial justice. The initiative would have changed the city charter to remove a requirement that the city have a police department with a minimum number of officers, the AP reports. Supporters said a complete overhaul of policing was necessary to stop police violence. Opponents said the proposal had no concrete plan for how to move forward and warned it would leave some communities already affected by violence more vulnerable as crime is on the rise. Those opponents welcomed the amendment's defeat but stressed the urgency of transforming policing in the city even without it.
The ballot proposal, which had roots in the abolish-the-police movement that erupted after Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year, called for a new Department of Public Safety to take “a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions” that would be determined by the mayor and City Council. Supporters argued it was a chance to reimagine what public safety can be and how money gets spent. Among other things, supporters said, funding would go toward programs that don’t send armed officers to call on people in crisis. Support didn't cleanly follow racial lines. Opponents included several prominent Black leaders, including some who have been top voices in the police accountability movement. About 56% of voters opposed the proposal.
Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey was also in a tough fight for a second term, facing a bevy of opponents who have attacked him for his leadership in the wake of Floyd’s death; he opposed the policing amendment. With voting nearly complete Tuesday, Frey had about 43% of the vote, well ahead of a pair of challengers running at about 20% each, the AP reports. But he needed more than 50% to win under the city's ranked-choice voting system. Under the ranked-choice system, candidates with no chance to win after the first round of counting are eliminated. A voter who backed such an unsuccessful candidate would then have his or her second choice tabulated, presuming that candidate remained in the race. The process is repeated until a candidate is declared the winner. (Read more Minneapolis stories.)