Making Our City Just and Safe for Every Person

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We need city leaders to work with federal, state and county governments to make our city safe for everyone. Here’s how the proposed charter amendments on government structure and public safety interact with each other.

What happens if the public safety and government structure amendments both pass?

To the extent they are consistent, a possible implementation might be as follows: the Government Structure amendment defines the Mayor as the chief executive responsible for city operations. The Public Safety amendment eliminates the Police Department, Police Chief, the minimum requirement for police and the funding requirement, and replaces it with a Department of Public Safety with law enforcement if necessary. It’s possible the Department of Public Safety would simply report to the Mayor, as chief executive, with Council confirming department head appointments and providing legislative and policy oversight. Any inconsistent provisions would need to be decided by a judge.

If the public safety amendment passes and government structure does not, what happens?

It would eliminate the Police Department and the Police Chief from the City Charter and replace it with a Department of Public Safety, which would include law enforcement if necessary. The minimum requirement for police and the funding requirement would be eliminated from the charter. If there were a Police Chief, they would have 15 bosses (the Commissioner of Public Safety, Mayor and 13 Council Members). This would add a new layer of bureaucracy, and armed law enforcement officers would report to an unelected new Department Head.

Would the proposed public safety amendment eliminate the police union or contract?

As a city, Minneapolis can’t eliminate its police union contract through a charter amendment. That labor contract is governed by a Minnesota state law known as PELRA (Public Employees Labor Relations Act). When the city of Brainerd tried to eliminate its firefighters’ union and use volunteer firefighters, their firefighters’ union sued the city claiming the city had committed an unfair labor practice. In a 2017 decision, the MN Supreme Court agreed.

Can Minneapolis improve its police contract?

Many of us are frustrated by provisions in the Minneapolis police contract that do not empower our police chief to enact reforms. Minneapolis city leaders can and should address provisions in the current Minneapolis police contract that limit the police chief’s ability to transform policing and provide a just and safe city. For example, we support eliminating provisions in the current contract that:

  • do not allow our police chief to flag, track, and impose appropriate discipline for behaviors that indicate a pattern requiring early intervention.

  • provide officers accused of misconduct two days before being interviewed

  • include supervisors in the bargaining unit, creating disincentives to discipline.

Does the public safety amendment need to pass for our city to implement a variety of crisis response models for 911 calls?

No. We do not need a charter change to provide Minneapolis residents with a variety of response models for 911 calls. Our city leaders can and should collaborate with Hennepin County to maximize the county’s existing programs in Minneapolis that embed social workers in police departments to assist with non-police responses to mental health calls, or co-responder programs when an officer is needed to accompany a mental health professional. The embedded social worker model has been implemented downtown by the business community and is already demonstrating positive results.

Can our Police Department be reformed?

We believe the Department of Justice investigation of the MPD and the commitment of Police Chief Arradondo can reform the MPD to be, in his words, one that “serves all people with integrity, compassion and an unrelenting commitment to justice and that regards the sanctity of life as the most precious of all of its duties.”

The State has passed some police reform laws in the past 2 sessions, and the Federal Government is considering laws to reform policing nationally. Our city leaders should recognize the state and federal authority in these areas and work with them to change laws that limit police reforms, including:

  • ending mandatory arbitration for discipline in law enforcement, which often reverses police chief’s disciplinary decisions and efforts to hold officers accountable for unacceptable conduct.

  • ending qualified immunity, a judicial doctrine that limits redress by individual harmed by excessive use of force by police officers. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act would limit qualified immunity.

How would a Department of Public Safety as specified by the YES4 amendment improve Public Safety?

The amendment establishes a department that defines its functions as "responsible for integrating its public safety functions into a comprehensive public health approach to safety."  There is no plan or blueprint for implementation or even definitions as to which functions should be integrated. Defining the structure and creating a highly functional organization that collaborates well not only within the city, but with county and state counterparts, is a complex task that requires experienced professionals and experts in public safety.