Reimagining Public Safety

EFFORTS TO REIMAGINE PUBLIC SAFETY

The Charter Amendments

In response to the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd and ensuing protests and riots, five members of the Minneapolis City Council drafted an amendment to the City Charter calling for the abolition of the Police Department and the creation of a new Department of Public Safety. The new department would report to the City Council and left uncertain whether or not it would include sworn police officers. The Charter Commission reviewed the Council’s proposed amendment, and in August 2020 declined to approve it for the November 2020 ballot in favor of further study by a subcommittee. That subcommittee, the Public Safety Work Group, reported out to the Charter Commission in November and December of 2020, concluding after public hearings that 1) Minneapolis citizens were divided on the issue, 2) citizens were disturbed the City Council had not sought input from more of the community, the Chief of Police and other stakeholders, and 3) removing the police without a plan in place would be dangerous and irresponsible.  

Three members of the City Council since then have drafted a new amendment that would replace the current Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety reporting to the Council that would include sworn police officers along with other public safety services to be defined by the City. A 2018 City Council amendment with the same reporting structure was criticized in the press as promoting a department with loose accountability given its report to the mayor and entire 13-member council. The Charter Commission is currently reviewing the Council’s new amendment.

Yes 4 Minneapolis has petitioned successfully for a Charter Amendment to create a Department of Public Safety and eliminate the police department. It gives shared oversight to the Mayor and City Council, who would determine by ordinance the structure, duties and responsibilities of the Department that allows for licensed officers “as necessary.” As of May 14 and pursuant to Charter rules, the City Attorney’s Office is reviewing for constitutionality. The City Council has said it is likely to withdraw its amendment if the Yes 4 Minneapolis amendment survives.     

The Charter Commission has proposed a separate government structure amendment. The purpose of the amendment, according to the working group of the Commission, is  to “better define and delineate relationships between Council, Mayor and City staff.” This amendment maintains the City Council as the legislative body and the Mayor as the Chief Executive Officer. 

This amendment does not create or address a department of public safety, and citizens and some community groups have implored the Charter Commission to draft an amendment for a department of public safety that would house the police, the Office of Violence Prevention and other teams as necessary to take a holistic and public-wellness approach to public safety. This amendment, sitting beside the government structure amendment, would clearly delineate control and accountability of the department of public safety to the mayor. 

The LWVMpls has long supported the kind of structural reform the government structure amendment proposes, and the League endorses this amendment. The following table summarizes the government structure amendment: 

Legislative CouncilExecutive Mayor
Council holds all legislative and policymaking authority of the CityCouncil's actions are subject to approval or veto by the Mayor
Council may override the Mayor's veto with the affirmative vote of two-thirds of its MembersMayor is responsible for working with Council to establish a shared agenda of policy priorities to advance the City
Council is responsible for confirming the Mayor's appointment of department headsMayor is the City's chief executive, head of its Administration, and appoints and supervises department heads
Council holds the "power of the purse" and has the authority to refine and adopt the final City budgetMayor continues to prepare and present the proposed City budget
Council has power to make inquiries or to conduct investigations about the Administration and of the operation of City departmentsMayor has line-item veto on budget and expenditure actions
Council is given adequate resources to support its legislative/policymaking, oversight, and constituent services functionDepartment heads serve for terms that run concurrent with the elective term for the Mayor

This Amendment has been approved and submitted to the City Council for ballot language for the November 2021 general election.

 Learn more about the role and function of the Charter Commission in city government.


	
Updated June 8, 2021 @ 9:40 pm

Proposed Charter Amendments

RESOURCES

Press articles, scholarly articles, reports and studies

FAQ

A collection of frequently asked questions

Glossary of Definitions

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