MINNEAPOLIS – Some members of a commission reviewing a proposal to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department expressed concern Wednesday about the fast-tracked timeline they must follow if the proposed change has any chance of getting on the November ballot.
The Minneapolis Charter Commission met Wednesday to outline how it will go about its work over the next several weeks as it reviews the City Council’s proposal to amendment the city’s charter. The proposal, which comes following widespread criticism of law enforcement over the killing of George Floyd, would replace the police department with a new “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention” that has yet to be fully defined.
The Charter Commission has the authority to approve the amendment, propose a substitute amendment, reject it or ask for a 90-day extension. The City Council is not bound by the commission´s recommendation, but it can´t move forward until the review is complete.
In order to meet an Aug. 21 deadline to get the question on the November ballot – where voters would have the final say – the commission must finish its work in 35 days. Typically, the commission has 60 days to review a proposed amendment change, and can ask for a 90-day extension.
“If we elect to take our additional time, this ballot question will not be on the ballot in November,” Commission Chairman Barry Clegg said.
The 15-member commission will hold two public hearings – one on July 15, and another that has yet to be scheduled. Commissioners also voted to invite members of the City Council and the mayor to its July 8 meeting to answer questions. The public may submit comments online until the conclusion of the final public hearing.
Initially, Clegg proposed to have the first public hearing next week, but some commissioners said they were uncomfortable with that tight timeline.
“I´m not as concerned about meeting the council´s timeline as I am about getting this right,” said Commissioner Matt Perry. He suggested holding the first public hearing in two weeks, to give neighborhood organizations and other groups time to talk with constituents. “And if that pushes the timeline out, so be it.”
The Minneapolis police force has come under heavy pressure since Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died May 25 after an officer pressed his knee on Floyd´s neck for nearly eight minutes.
According to draft language of the amendment posted online, the new department “will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.” The director of the new agency would have “non-law-enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.”
The amendment would still allow for armed police officers – it calls for a division of licensed peace officers who would answer to the new department´s director.