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Minneapolis councilors float new plan for reimagining public safety

A proposal calls to remove the minimum staffing requirement and replace MPD with a new Department of Public Safety

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By Liz Navratil
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis would keep police officers but remove the requirement to have a minimum number of them, under a proposal unveiled Thursday by a trio of City Council members.

The plan, which would require approval from voters, calls for the city to replace its Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety that would include police officers and “additional divisions ... to provide for a comprehensive approach to public safety beyond law enforcement.”

The plan comes seven months after nine City Council members pledged to “begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department” following George Floyd’s death.

Three of the council members who participated in that pledge — Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher and Jeremy Schroeder — wrote the latest proposal.

” Minneapolis residents are imagining a comprehensive public safety approach that is more effective and more reflective of our values, and they are calling on the city to act,” Fletcher said in a statement. “This charter amendment creates a structure that supports that vision and allows our city to innovate.”

The city’s charter, which serves as its constitution, has become a focal point for debates over policing in the city. It requires Minneapolis to maintain a police department with a minimum force based on the city’s population.

The new proposal is similar to one that was advanced last year by the City Council but blocked from the November ballot after the court-appointed Charter Commission decided to take more time to review it.

Unlike last year, if the council members continue on their current trajectory, the commission will not be able to use its powers of delay to keep the question off the ballot this fall.

Both proposals were designed to eliminate the Police Department and create a new department focused on broader public safety, though they used different names for it.

Last year’s proposal made it optional to include a " Division of Law Enforcement Services,” but state law limited the city’s ability to actually eliminate officers. The new proposal states that the division is mandatory.

It’s possible that other city services, such as the Office of Violence Prevention or 911, could eventually roll into a Department of Public Safety, but those details would be hammered out in separate processes, Fletcher said. The Fire Department would continue to exist on its own.

If the proposal passes, it could also have implications for police oversight and accountability.

Under the city charter, the mayor has “complete power” over the Police Department’s operations. This proposal would eliminate that language, though Mayor Jacob Frey has in the past raised concerns about requiring police to “report to 14 different elected officials with divergent public safety priorities.”

A separate proposal being considered by the Charter Commission would seek to strengthen the mayor’s oversight over all city departments, making it illegal for council members to improperly interfere with operations and focusing their work on making policy and passing ordinances.

(c)2021 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)