MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A charter amendment to replace the Minneapolis Police Department is one step closer to going before voters in November after a coalition of activists submitted their petition to city officials on Friday.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of community groups, delivered dozens of boxes containing the 20,000 signatures to amend the Minneapolis charter to officials at City Hall. The coalition’s proposed amendment would replace the police department with a new Department of Public Safety and shift authority over the police from the mayor to the City Council.
The petition comes as the city of Minneapolis remains under pressure to overhaul policing after George Floyd’s fatal encounter with former Officer Derek Chauvin last May. Chauvin awaits sentencing after being convicted of murder and manslaughter charges, and three other officers involved in the arrest face trial this summer. A Justice Department probe into the department’s policing practices has compounded that pressure.
A majority of council members committed to replacing the police force with a more holistic agency in the days after Floyd’s death last summer, but that effort stalled and failed to make it onto the ballot last November. A current proposal by three council members mirrors the coalition’s efforts to establish a public safety department, and would include police officers and other divisions for “a comprehensive approach to public safety beyond law enforcement.”
Antonio Williams with The People’s Canvass said during a news conference that he had spoken with many Minneapolis residents who experienced brutality, injustice and indifference at the hands of the city’s police. Williams called the breadth of signatures a “screaming indictment on the old way” of policing.
“It is saying we want something new, and we want you to hear us and we want you to hear us now,” Williams said. “Give us a chance, give us a choice to choose something new that works for all people.”
The coalition is made up of more than 20 local organizations, including Reclaim the Block and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, among others. According to a campaign finance report, the group received $500,000 from the Open Society Policy Center, which has ties to billionaire George Soros.
Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, a group formed after the 2015 death of Jamar Clark in a confrontation with Minneapolis police, is gathering signatures for another petition that would put control of decisions about the police department under an elected Citizen Police Accountability Council.
The city clerk’s office will present the petition to the charter commission — the court-appointed body that oversees changes to the city’s charter — during their meeting on Wednesday before beginning a 10-day period to count and verify the signatures. The verified signatures would need to total 5% of all Minneapolis voters in the last general election, or 11,906 signatures, before going before the city council.
The City Council and the mayor would then consider the ballot question’s wording with the city’s attorneys to assure that it’s constitutional. The wording must be approved and submitted to Hennepin county officials by Aug. 20 in order for the amendment to make it on the ballot in November.
Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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