Minneapolis Charter Commission votes down narrow proposal to remove MPD minimum staffing requirement

Vote on broader city council proposal Wed., Aug. 5

Sloane Martin
July 29, 2020 - 8:03 pm
Minneapolis city hall



While the Minneapolis City Council charter amendment proposal is still being considered, at least one alternative ballot option is off the table.

The motion fromCharter Commissioner Al Giraud-Isaacson was more narrowly focused than the city council’s proposal to start addressing the future of the Minneapolis Police Department and public safety. Introduced July 20, it would have removed the minimum staffing requirement for the MPD written in the charter.

In an 8-6 decision Wednesday afternoon, the commission voted not to put that option to voters. It could have been an option alongside the city council proposal which removes the requirement for a police department which would be replaced with a different public safety model, possibly still with officers.

“The use of a formula for mandated departmental funding really only appears here for the police department,” Commissioner Jan Sandberg said. “There is no justification for required minimum. I reviewed charters for a few other cities and there’s nothing similar in any of those. It makes no sense to me in times of technological and social change to require minimum funding.” 

Commissioner Jill Garcia, who voted against the motion, said the minimum staffing requirement came about about 60 years ago in part due to pressure from the police federation.

Its longstanding presence in the charter, an uptick in crime recently, its implied association with defunding police, the need for more time to consider the future of MPD, and pushing the option to 2021 were cited by commissioners who voted against the amendment.

“This provision about minimum funding...we wouldn’t put it in the charter if we were drafting the charter anew,” Chair Barry Clegg said. “But it’s there now. And the fact is that it’s become code for ‘defund the police.’”

“I agree with Commissioner (Andrew) Kozak’s comments about the lack of addressing the issue of the police culture,” Garcia said.

“I believe that if one of these measures were to pass to voters in Minneapolis, the result would be a giant self-inflicted wound,” Commissioner Dan Cohen said. “Crime would soar. Property values on our homes would fall, residents both black and white would flee the city. Businesses would close or leave. Jobs would be lost. Rows upon rows of vacant houses.”

Those in support said sending the option to voters is exactly how to take input, and some challenged their colleagues to think about their roles as an unelected body...

“If this were to go before a vote, this amendment, I don’t know if I would vote for it,” Christopher Smith said. “But I don’t think it’s the role of this commission to stop it from going to a vote.”

“I’ll put my trust in the voters of Minneapolis,” Giraud-Isaacson said. “I believe that the citizens of Minneapolis have earned the right to have a say.”

“I think we’re kind of trending perilously to an area where some people seem to think our job is to put up guardrails for political mistakes by the council or the mayor and I don’t think that’s our role here.”

The vote could foreshadow what’s to come on Wed., Aug 5, when the 15-member appointed commission will vote on the city council’s amendment change. If commissioners did not approve a measure that was more specific, like they did Wednesday, chances Minneapolis residents see the city council’s more broad proposal on the 2020 ballot could be in jeopardy

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