A coalition of community organizations introduced a Minneapolis city charter amendment proposal Friday evening that calls for replacing the police department with a new public safety department.
With all eyes on the city since former police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd last summer, members of the City Council and community organizations are pushing for changes to the city’s charter. The citizen petition, written by members of Yes4Minneapolis, calls for the replacement of the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety department that aims to integrate a public-health approach to safety. Members of the Minneapolis City Council already have introduced a similar proposal, and a public hearing has been scheduled for February 18 to consider putting the charter amendment to a vote on November 2.
In the meantime, Corenia Smith, the campaign manager for Yes4Minneapolis, told Sahan Journal that the organization will begin canvassing for support of its own community petition.
“This is one of the ways that will guarantee participatory democracy and allow the residents and the citizens of Minneapolis to be able to vote on a new Department of Public Safety,” Smith said.
The charter can be amended in three ways: Through the Charter Commission, the City Council, or through a citizen petition, which would require signatures from at least 5 percent of Minneapolis voters. Minneapolis citizens would vote on a proposed amendment that gets onto the ballot through one of those three avenues.
According to Smith, proposing a charter amendment through the City Council as well as through a citizen petition demonstrates multiple strategies being taken to structurally change public safety in the city. The two proposals use similar language, but Smith said the citizen petition includes more community input. The language of the community proposal also emphasizes the need for a public health approach.
The charter currently requires the existence of the Minneapolis Police Department and dictates that a minimum number of officers must be employed.
Both amendments propose changes to the charter in which MPD no longer has a required number of officers. The department would instead include employees of different skill sets, including licensed peace officers. The amendment also proposes that the mayor nominate the head of the reimagined public safety department. The City Council would then vote to appoint that nomination.
According to a draft of the proposal obtained by Sahan Journal, Yes4Minneapolis proposed striking language from the current charter that grants the mayor complete power to make rules surrounding police department operations. The proposal would also get rid of a section in the charter that says the City Council must fund a certain number of officers per resident.
The Charter Commission blocked a similar amendment proposed last summer. Since then, Yes4Minneapolis has collected community input to revise it. The campaign collaborated with members of the City Council, conducted a community survey, and had discussions with community leaders and their partner organizations.
Smith said she hopes the City Council will support the community proposal if it obtains enough signatures.
Yes4Minneapolis is made up of about 15 grassroots organizations. After filing their proposed amendment, the campaign will begin canvassing for support. They’ll need 12,000 signatures to get the amendment on the ballot.
Smith said they’ll be employing their partner organizations and other volunteers to get those signatures—a process that will require outreach in multicultural and multigenerational communities.
“It’s been so polarizing at times,” Smith said of the call to defund the police. “We’re really going to have to have deep, intimate conversations to really move forward.”