MINNEAPOLIS — A Minneapolis commission decided Wednesday to take more time to review a City Council amendment to dismantle the Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s death, ending the possibility of voters deciding the issue in November.
Members of the Charter Commission expressed concern that the process to change the city’s charter was being rushed after Floyd died following an encounter with police. While several commissioners said changing the Police Department was necessary, they said the amendment before them was flawed. Several said it faced legal barriers, was created without input from key community members who oppose it, and that it gave too much power to the City Council.
“It’s appropriate to explore transformational changes in the department, but it needs to be done thoughtfully,” said Commissioner Peter Ginder, who voted in favor of taking more time. “That hasn’t been done here.”
The five City Council members who authored the proposed charter amendment released a statement criticizing the decision, but said they will continue to work toward transforming the way the city provides public safety. They said they plan to put an amendment before voters in November 2021.
“It is not our legacy to use bureaucratic processes to circumvent the people in an attempt to ‘protect’ voters from themselves,” said Council Member Jeremiah Ellison. “That is not democracy. In a democracy, the people decide. But I guess today the Charter Commission decided otherwise.”
The proposed amendment followed widespread criticism of law enforcement over Floyd’s death. It would have replaced the Police Department with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention” that backers said would take a more “holistic” approach, which wasn’t fully defined. The proposal did allow for armed officers — creating a division of licensed peace officers, who would have answered to the new department’s director.
“The council says ‘Trust us. We’ll figure it out after this is approved. Trust us.’ Well I don’t, and we shouldn’t,” said Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission. “Charter change is too important.”
The 15-member commission, made up of volunteers appointed by a judge, voted 10-5 to take another 90 days to review the proposed amendment. Most of those who voted against taking the extra time said they would recommend rejecting the amendment.