The future of the Minneapolis Police Department’s direction is now in the hands of voters after Minnesota’s highest court gave the OK for a controversial measure to be added to the ballot for the impending municipal elections.
This measure (which you can learn more about in greater detail here) proposes an amendment to the Minneapolis city charter that would allow for the police department in its current form to be replaced with a new “department of public safety” that would use a “comprehensive public health approach to safety”–which can include licensed peace officers if necessary.
It would also strip the mayor of sole control of the department and allow for the city council to also have a say in its direction and would require a council-appointed commissioner of public safety to oversee the department. The position of police chief would still exist, but it would no longer be considered a department head.
Earlier this week, according to the Associated Press, a district judge rejected the city council-approved ballot language because she felt it didn’t adequately describe the effects of what would happen to the police department if the measure passes. This was spurred by a lawsuit filed by opponents of the measure who wanted the “misleading” language thrown out altogether.
The Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed and overturned the district court’s ruling on Thursday. The AP reports that the Supreme Court had to rule quickly because early and absentee voting was scheduled to begin Friday morning.
From AP News:
Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said in a three-page order that the justices concluded that the challenge to the ballot language did not meet the “high standard” that the court set in earlier cases. She said the court will issue a full opinion laying out its legal reasoning sometime later to avoid impeding the start of voting.
The ballots were already being printed when Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson ruled against the language Tuesday. It was the second time she had struck down the council’s wording. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea put the case on the fast track Wednesday.
Lawyers on both sides said beforehand that they expect the high court ruling allowing the ballot language to be the final word, given the late hour.
The measure, proposed by community-led group Yes 4 Minneapolis, gained traction after George Floyd was murdered by former officer Derek Chauvin. The AP reports that the group insists that there will still be a police department if the measure passes, but the department would have more freedom to “take a fresh approach to public safety that could reduce excessive policing against communities of color.”
What that would ultimately look like would be up to the city council.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told KSTP Eyewitness News that he supports the ballot measure and the changes that it proposes.
“I have hope we can embrace a future in which we have law enforcement coupled with both traditional policing and public health strategies together that can give us an overall better product,” he said.