Minneapolis Votes on Whether to End Its Police Department
A ballot measure in Minneapolis would disband and replace the city’s troubled Police Department. Even some voters who want change think it goes too far.
In the city where George Floyd was killed, voters decide whether to oust the police.
Nov. 2, 2021, 1:39 p.m. ET
By Mitch Smith
In October, campaign workers sorted literature and flyers to be used in canvassing voters on whether Minneapolis should replace its Police Department with a Department of Public Safety.Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times
MINNEAPOLIS — Voters in Minneapolis on Tuesday weighed whether to keep or replace a long-troubled Police Department that became nationally infamous last year after the murder of George Floyd by an officer, which triggered worldwide outrage and protests.
While disgust over Mr. Floyd’s murder is widely shared in Minneapolis, a heavily Democratic city, residents have been split on a ballot question: whether to replace the department with a new agency focused on public health. Progressive Democrats have pushed for the measure, which would go beyond what other cities have done to overhaul policing, while moderate Democrats and Republicans have expressed alarm about a rise in violent crime and called instead for improving the current system.
“They need to be restructured, but don’t get rid of them,” said Carman Mahone, a customer-service worker who opposes the amendment, calling it the most important issue on her ballot. “We need them. Have you seen all this shooting and everything going around?”
But patience with the status quo has worn thin in Minneapolis. Many residents share stories of unpleasant encounters with police officers, or of the fear they felt during the civil unrest that overwhelmed the city last year.
If the amendment passes, the Minneapolis Police Department would cease to exist, and the City Council would have more oversight of a replacement agency. That new department would almost certainly still employ armed officers to respond to some emergencies, but there would no longer be a required minimum number of officers.
Jason Chavez, a City Council candidate whose ward includes the site of Mr. Floyd’s murder, said he supported the ballot item and a public safety approach that focused more on addressing the root causes of crime.
“People oftentimes are like, ‘Look, I don’t feel safe when a cop is near me, but I also don’t feel safe walking outside,'” Mr. Chavez said as he and campaign workers held signs at a busy intersection on Tuesday morning. “We should not have a system that does that.”