Latrell Snider and his partner
went to Abdullahi Mohamed’s, introduced
themselves, and began their pitch: Minneapolis has an opportunity to replace
its police department with something new, and they needed Mohamed’s help.
Mohamed reacted saying he likes
police and relies on them for his family’s safety. Snider replied to it
assuring him to have a new public safety department. But he added that it would
just work differently. He gives an example stating that responding to some 911
calls would be done without armed officers.
After George Floyd’s death sparked a
failed attempt to abolish the Minneapolis Police Department, activists and
several City Council members are trying again, this time with a well-funded
initiative that would ask voters in November whether the department, which
critics say has an enduring culture of brutality, should be abolished.
The new system would involve a “comprehensive
public health approach” and licensed peace officers “if necessary.” It would no
longer be under the mayor’s office. They have raised about $1
million, including $500,000 from Open Society Policy Center, which has ties to
billionaire George Soros.
A lot of local groups
support the change and gathered 20,000
signatures to get the measure on the ballet.
The lead organizer, Brian
Fullman said that What we knew as public safety — which is only the police
right now, the only option that we have — was unacceptable.” “The murder of
George Floyd ignited a lot of historical pain and disrespect that we have been
going through, and we made the decision that we no longer wanted to have what
we have now as the only option for public safety.”
Many City Council members
started to eliminate the police after Floyd’s death but they were not able to
get it on the ballot on time. A leader then said that the ease with which they
gathered signatures showed the need for change.
“The residents of Minneapolis really were the
ones who made the call for this, who were like, we can’t just let this lesson
that took place in the summer to be something that fizzles out, and then what?
We just wait for the next person to be killed by the police?” she said.
Rising violence and
property crime have been observed in Minneapolis like every other U.S city. Due
to retirements and disability leaves
following, the police force is more than 200 officers, or roughly 25%, below
its permitted strength after Floyd’s death.
Both of these issues have
fueled opposition to the project. Door knocking, community events, mailings,
and digital advertisements will be used by All of Mpls, a new group that has
gathered more than $109,000, to fight the idea in the coming weeks.
The plan to abolish the
department, according to All of Mpls campaign manager Leili Fatehi, is a
“gimmick.” Many citizens, she said, want police to be held
accountable and for reforms to be made in the department, but they are also
concerned about growing crime.
“It’s not getting us to the
real solutions that balance those two concerns,” she said.
Opponents further claim
that the ballot issue does not ensure that a new public safety agency will have
any police personnel. Officers would be added “if required to execute the
department’s duties,” according to the document. The co-founder of Operation
Safety Now, warned that the campaign’s ultimate objective is to abolish police
and refered the proposed amendment as a
The most important thing
that needed to be understood was that the amendment doesn’t say there will be
police, rather it says that there could be police, only if needed.
It’s among several aspects
of the ballot question that city officials plan to highlight with an
explanatory note in November. Activists are trying to block such a note,
arguing that the city is improperly trying to influence voters.
Regardless of the outcome
of the referendum, the city is still under pressure to make reforms. Both
federal and state investigations into policing tactics are looking at the
police department, and both probes might result in significant reform. Since
Floyd’s death, the mayor and Chief Medaria Arradondo have implemented a number
of policy reforms, including mandating additional de-escalation training,
revising use-of-force regulations, and tightening the disciplinary process.
The lack of details on what
a new public safety agency might look like is purposeful, according to Bates,
in order to engage local people in the process. If the amendment is approved,
council members must first enact an ordinance establishing the new agency,
describing how it will operate and how its commissioner will be chosen. It’s
unclear how long a procedure like this would take.
In July, Ed Brown, 69,
listened to Snider’s pitch on his porch in north Minneapolis. A new public
safety agency, according to Brown, who is Black, appears to be a smart concept.
He believes it would mean that police personnel would no longer be dispatched
to calls for which they are unprepared and which may result in violence.
“What we need to do is reimagine the police
department,” Brown said.
“That is to say not
necessarily defund but maybe in some cases even give them more money if they’re
going to do the right thing with it,” he said. “We have to have the proper
responses for the proper situations.”
Muhammad Ibraheim is a
corps member of the American Statehouse News Initiative Associated
Press/Report. Report for America is a nationwide, non-profit-making organization
that sends journalists in local newsrooms to cover stories that aren’t getting