City Council members and activists in Minneapolis are trying to disband and replace the Minneapolis Police Department again after their first attempt to abolish the police failed. Activists who support the idea cite a history of police brutality by the Minneapolis Police Department that was exemplified by George Floyd’s death.
The initiative – Yes 4 Minneapolis – funded primarily by billionaire George Soros, aims to replace the police with a “public safety department” that employs a “comprehensive public health approach” as well as licensed peace officers “if necessary.”
Soros’ Open Society Policy Center has given $500,000 to the initiative, which is gathering signatures to put their measure on the ballot in November. With donations from more than 30 additional groups, the movement has raised around $1 million dollars so far according to CBS Minnesota.
If successful, the new public safety department will no longer be under the control of Mayor Jacob Frey who opposed abolishing the police.
Brian Fullman, lead organizer Barbershop and Black Congregation Cooperative, said that the current system is unacceptable.
“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.”
Rev. JaNaé Bates, a leader of the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, said that there is a lot of momentum for change in the community a year after Floyd’s death.
“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.
Those who oppose the initiative point to rising crime in the city and an understaffed police department as reasons to boost police support.
All of Mpls has raised $109,000 to begin campaigning against the proposal with door knocking, community events, mailers and digital ads.
All of Mpls campaign manager Leili Fatehi called abolishing the police department a “gimmick,” and said that residents are worried about the increase in crime over the past year.
Fatehi argued that there are better ways to balance crime prevention and police accountability than getting rid of the police altogether.
“It’s not getting us to the real solutions that balance those two concerns,” she said.
Bill Rodriguez, co-founder of Operation Safety Now, called the proposed amendment a “trojan horse” and warned that the campaign’s end goal is to abolish police, as the bill does not guarantee the presence of police officers.
“The amendment doesn’t say there will be a police force — it says there could be, maybe, if necessary,” he said. “That’s the most important thing that needs to be understood about this amendment.”
The city is currently investigating its policing practices with an eye to further changes regardless of the outcome of the ballot. The mayor and Chief Medaria Arradondo have launched several policy changes since Floyd’s death, including requiring new training on de-escalation, reworking use of force restrictions and strengthening the disciplinary process.