Voters in Minneapolis, Minn., the city where George Floyd was killed under the knee of former officer Derek Chauvin, decided against a proposal to replace the police department on Tuesday. Calls for defunding and abolishing the police were sparked by Floyd’s death in May of 2020, but it seems residents in Minneapolis just aren’t convinced that’s the right move.
According to NBC News, the ballot initiative would have amended the city’s charter and replaced the police department with a Department of Public Safety for a complete overhaul of the force. The charter requires the police department to maintain a minimum number of officers.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, a group fighting against a police-only approach to public safety in the city, petitioned to get the initiative on the ballot for Tuesday. CBS Minnesota reports that a charter amendment requires 51% to pass but when the votes were counted, 80,506 Minneapolis voters were against it and 62,813 voted for it.
Here’s more about the proposal, from NBC News:
It asked residents whether the police department should be replaced with a Department of Public Safety “that employs a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions,” the specifics of which would be determined by the mayor and City Council.
Supporters said the measure would reduce the role of armed police officers in calls involving homeless people, mental health issues and substance use, though they would still be part of the new department and would respond to violent crime.
Opponents of the measure criticized the ballot language for saying that the new department “could include” licensed police officers, if necessary, to fulfill its public safety responsibilities at a time when the city has recorded the most homicides since the mid-1990s. Many also took issue with the vague wording of the measure and its newness.
The proposal caused a serious divide in the community and last week Police Chief Medaria Arradondo publicly opposed the idea at a news conference.
Corenia Smith, the campaign manager for Yes 4 Minneapolis, criticized Arradondo for appearing in full uniform during his statement, which she claims contradicts the policy the chief created last year that bars officers from campaigning for any political issues in front of voters.
CBS Minnesota says that the Minneapolis Police Department is currently asking the city for $27 million in funding to rebuild the force after a large number of officers left during a time when violent crime is on the rise. In fact, the police chief says the department is working with hundreds of fewer officers than before, with just 598 active officers this year while they previously had 853 in 2019.
More from NBC:
Minneapolis is among a number of municipalities considering or trying to overhaul its police department, after a police officer murdered Floyd last year. A day after the former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murder in Floyd’s death, the Justice Department announced it was opening a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis.
Before Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis Police Department made national headlines for the killing of Jamar Clark in November 2015 and the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in July 2017. In recent weeks, videos were released that showed Minneapolis officers discussing “hunting” people who were out past curfew during protests last year, and beating a man who had surrendered.
JaNaé Bates, minister and spokesperson for Yes 4 Minneapolis, represented the coalition at a media briefing on Tuesday morning and said that their work wouldn’t stop regardless of which direction the votes swing.
“If the people of Minneapolis vote no, that does mean that the disinformation campaign has won out for this battle. And it means that this fight continues,” Bates said, according to NBC. “We will most certainly continue moving forward.”