The initiative, known as Question 2, wouldn’t have automatically eliminated police in Minneapolis, but it would have scrapped a requirement for the city to keep a minimum number of officers on staff. It also would have created a department of public safety that could have included police officers, social workers and other officials tasked with protecting the community.
Question 2 also would have altered the chain of command for police. Under the proposed setup, the mayor would have nominated a commissioner to oversee the department of public safety, and City Council would have voted to approve them.
Local activists viewed the initiative as a revolutionary approach to public safety spurred by last year’s protests against George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer.
In June 2020, a majority on the Minneapolis City Council agreed to dismantle the city’s police department. A number of local civil rights groups banded together this year to create Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition focused on getting Question 2 on the ballot. The city deemed group’s petition valid in May.
Despite the massive outcry over Floyd’s death and Minneapolis’ history of unchecked police misconduct, Question 2 wasn’t a sure thing. Even among Black residents — a population that has suffered the brunt of abuse from local police — there’s debate over whether and how to reform the police department.
At least 58 percent of Black voters in Minneapolis held an unfavorable view of the city’s police, but just 42 percent believed the police force should be replaced with a new department of public safety, according to a September poll published in the Star Tribune. Roughly 47 percent opposed replacing the department, with 11 percent undecided, according to the poll. Among white voters, 51 percent said they supported replacing the police department, with just 40 percent opposed.
The ballot initiative revealed disagreements among Minnesota Democrats as well. Question 2 was supported by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and state Attorney General Keith Ellison, but other Democrats — including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz — opposed it.
Had the initiative passed, the new public safety structure would could have gone into effect in December. Now, in the absence of changes they’ve sought for more than a year, many activists in Minneapolis will have to step back and recalibrate for their police reform fight.
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