Voters in Minnesota’s largest city have rejected what would have been an unprecedented move to dismantle the police department at the ballot box Tuesday following calls for reform following the death of George Floyd.
The measure asked voters if they favored amending the city’s charter to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety. The initiative would have removed language from the charter related to the agency, including minimum funding requirements, and would have divided control of public safety between the mayor and City Council.
The question failed 57% to 44%, according to the results released by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office with 133 of 136 precincts reporting. It needed 51% of voter approval to pass.
It would have essentially removed power from the mayor and police chief in an effort to re-imagine policing. Tuesday’s vote comes as Minneapolis is experiencing an uptick in violent crime similar to other cities.
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According to the ballot language, the public safety department would have employed a “comprehensive public health approach” to policing, putting a greater emphasis on public health, specifically mental health.
The measure was spearheaded by Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of businesses and other groups, which gathered 22,000 signatures to put it on the ballot, which was a battle in itself after it became the subject of legal challenges. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in September that voters could decide on the matter.
The goal, the group said, was to have options other than officers for responses to non-police-related calls. Fox News has reached out to the organization and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis.
Advocates insisted the measure was not meant to defund the police. As of Oct. 9, the police department had 591 sworn officers, down from 853 in 2018, a police spokesperson told Fox News.
“I am disappointed that people appear to be coming from a place of fear,” Erica Mauter, a Minneapolis resident who supported the measure, told Fox News Tuesday night. “When we’re uncertain about the future or when change feels tenuous, we want to go back to what made us feel comfortable and to what we already know. We have to challenge ourselves to have some imagination about different paths to a safer Minneapolis.”
Even in defeat, Mauter, 43, said she is hopeful incremental steps can be taken.
Opponents raised concerns over the measure’s vague language and a perceived lack of a transitional implementation plan if it were to pass.
Another question on the same ballot also asked voters if they favored consolidating the rest of the city’s municipal departments under the mayor, similar to how the police department is currently organized.
Tuesday gave Minneapolis voters their first chance to give their input on police reform since the May 2020 death of George Floyd by former White Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and the subsequent nationwide protests, riots, court battles and promises by elected officials to overhaul how communities, particularly ones of color, are policed.
The ballot question split Democrats with some like Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who is running for a second term, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz opposed. Others like State Attorney General Keith Ellison and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar supported the measure.