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Michelle S. Phelps, University of Minnesota

(LECTURE) Minneapolis voters ruled out a measure that would transform the city’s police after 18 months after the assassination of George Floyd entered the forefront of the city’s police reform debate.

With a difference of 56% to 44%, voters said “no” to a provincial change that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety focused on public health solutions.


Michelle Phelps of the University of Minnesota leads a project that examines attitudes toward city policing. The interview asked him to explain what happened in the Nov. 2, 2021 vote and where he leaves both the Minneapolis police department and the nationwide police reform movements. The edited version of his answers is below.

What have Minneapolis voters rejected?

The writing of the correction was quite complicated.

Essentially, the change would remove the police department that was in the city charter and replace it with the Department of Public Safety, which is responsible for providing a “comprehensive view of public health” to public safety, and specify the details of the new department. the mayor and the city council.

So this was a ‘Police Removal’ bill?

The proposed amendment itself did not call for a reduction in the number of police, but removed the barrier to funding. It was an opportunity for a new approach to policing.

The change would remove Minneapolis from the requirement of a city charter to maintain a minimum number of officers based on population size. And it would transfer some powers for police matters from the mayor to the city council, which could require the new department to focus resources on uniformed police alternatives, such as unarmed community officers or mental health specialists.

Why did the amendment fail?

The vote should not be seen as evidence that Minneapolis residents are compliant with city police. Surveys have shown that the Minneapolis Police Department is seen as very inadequate, especially among black residents. And 44% of voters voted in favor of the amendment, so it’s a very mixed sign.

The reasons for people to vote against the amendment were complex. Yes, there was an element of resentment among white and conservative Minneapolis residents who saw this as a radical attack on law and order. But it did not get enough support even in the districts where the majority of the population is black.

One possible reason: In addition to being more likely to deal with police brutality, black Americans are also more likely to seek the help of officers due to neighborhood violence. This raised concerns about the impact the amendment would have on police numbers.

As a result, the black community was divided over the amendment. At the same time, some black activists and city leaders demanded the dissolution or dissolution of the Minneapolis Police Department, while other black residents of North Minneapolis sued the city to hire more officers.

Who voted against the amendment?

We don’t have the full division of the vote yet, but we do have heat maps of the constituencies, which are roughly indicative of who voted “yes” and who voted “no”.

There was a great deal of support for the correction in some parts of South Minneapolis, especially in the multi-racial communities around George Floyd Square. There was also a lot of support in some gentrifying neighborhoods where there are a lot of young white voters.

In the southwestern districts — where there are groups of wealthy white residents — there was very strong opposition to the amendment. But most constituencies in North Minneapolis, which have the highest proportion of black voters, voted “no” on average. From a racial lens, the story of the amendment is intricate.

The results of initial surveys also suggest that age division was important, if not more so than race.

In summary, the opposition to and against question 2 in Minneapolis highlights the complex racial policy of police violence and fear of crime.

Are these fears supported?

Certainly, opponents of the amendment have tried to argue that efforts to re-represent the police have left Minneapolis safer. It is true that since the summer of 2020 many officers have left the force: many have stopped going to out-of-town departments, while others are on leave of absence from PTSD (post-traumatic stress).

And there is a perception among the public that fewer officers cause more community violence. But the truth of the matter is more difficult. The council has not removed any police: the 2021 budget was roughly in line with the 2020 budget. So the drop in the number of officers is not the result of the council removing the department. Instead, agents are leaving the force. And there is also some evidence that officials have sometimes abandoned their obligations to the public or “backtracked” on proactive activities.

It is too easy to say that the reduction in the number of police officers has led to an increase in violent crimes. We must also take into account the economic and social effects of the pandemic, as the courts have also been closed during this period.

At the same time, a rigorous analysis of police violence has taken place in Minneapolis since the assassination of George Floyd, which has changed the way officers and citizens interact: 911 phone calls have dropped, compared to the rate of shootings, and confidence is low. Meanwhile, the rise in arms sales probably also contributed to the rise. So beyond the number of police officers, or beyond what they do, there are many factors that can promote violence or promote security.

What’s next for Minneapolis police reform?

I am not convinced that this is the end of the amendment, it could be translated in some way. Yes, this time it failed, but there is a core of residents, organizers and activists who want to get out of the situation when it comes to law enforcement.

The immediate concern of the council will be to hire officials to comply with the court order, to meet the standard of minimum officials in the city charter, and to continue working to reform the department. So we will probably see more officers in the near future, not fewer.

But beyond the reform there is a real push for police transformation. It is still possible for Minneapolis to get the Department of Homeland Security, but instead to change it through city ordinances and without dissolving the Minneapolis Police Department. And the city continues to include new mental health professionals to answer some 911 calls.

Meanwhile, we have an investigation by the federal Department of Justice. This could end with a decree of agreement or memorandum of understanding that would order some of the changes sought by activists and community members.

How will this vote affect the broad police reform movement?

After George Floyd, what happens to the Minneapolis police is no longer just Minneapolis.

For proponents of the transformative changes that the amendment envisages, the result is mixed. While the rejection of the amendment, which some may argue, confirms that police defunding or abolition is politically toxic, nearly half of voters voted — the impetus has never been greater, despite the loss.

And if there had been a steady rise in shootings, there would have been a risk that the amendment would have been responsible. The silver of those who push for a “yes” vote is perhaps that the city has the potential to develop alternative models of public health without much national control.

One thing is for sure: this is not the end of the conversation.

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This article was republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/why-voters-rejected-plans-to-replace-the-minneapolis-police-department-and-whats-next-for-policing-reform-171183.