We have a responsibility to act together: What to know about the Minneapolis Charter amendment
Through our local democracy, we have the power–and responsibility–to meet the gravity of this moment. Together, we can realign our city policies and budget and create a new path forward. A critically important first step is changing the Minneapolis City Charter this year.
Why do we need to change the Charter?
For years, three main barriers have stood in the way of MPD accountability and systemic change: state law, the police federation, and the City Charter. While gridlock continues in other government areas, we can make a meaningful impact by changing the City Charter this year.
The consequences of inaction are significant:
- We have a civic duty and moral responsibility to act together. For years, attempts to reform MPD have failed us. MPD failed its basic function of public safety. We cannot tolerate the fact that police use-of-force is among the leading causes of death for young men of color and Black people, including Black women and girls, queer, trans and non-binary folks, disabled people, American Indians, immigrants, and Latinos. We cannot ignore that institutions and private businesses have lost faith and trust in MPD and ended their contracts. Instead of funding our lives, our public resources are being squandered by a $193 million per year MPD budget, and too many lives have been lost.
- If we do not amend the City Charter, we are leaving known roadblocks in the way of meaningful change, and continuing to allow MPD to operate without proper public oversight or accountability. Unlike any other department, the City Charter prohibits oversight by the City Council and requires a minimum amount of police department staffing. This restricts how the city can support public safety and oversight. Without changing the Charter, we’re blocking our ability to make wise public investments and create better community safety policies. Every other city department has City Council oversight. We deserve greater public oversight and accountability over the policies that affect our lives and the services we pay for.
- Without action from our public officials this year, the best community solutions may be prohibited by the current Charter. Across Minneapolis, we agree the best solutions and investments in safety and violence prevention must be on the table. But without changing the Charter, many solutions may not even be viable. The stakes are too high to keep a Charter in place that limits solutions and the power of our democratic process.
How do we change the Charter?
Minneapolis voters can amend the City Charter through a 2020 ballot initiative. The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously (12-0) for an amendment to the City Charter on June 26. It must be approved by the Minneapolis Charter Commission, an appointed body. To this end, we ask both Mayor Frey and the Charter Commission to join the entire Minneapolis City Council and let us vote.
We all agree that changes need to be made. What does the proposed Charter amendment do?
The proposed Charter Amendment replaces the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. Under the proposed Charter amendment, the Department may have a division of law enforcement services comprising licensed peace officers. Read the charter amendment here.
Once the Charter is amended, Minneapolis residents will have the power – through our local elected officials – to shape and invest in smarter solutions to safety and violence prevention. Across Minneapolis, we broadly agree we need the right tools to respond to emergencies, and better investments in violence prevention and overall community safety. Under the proposed Charter amendment, the best solutions can be on the table, as well as the status quo (maintaining the MPD under the new Department).
What could the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention do?
There are lessons and concrete models to draw on from Minneapolis and other cities. Some examples include:
- Scale up successful investments in the city’s Department of violence prevention (established in 2018)
- Leverage data and analysis from the City’s 911 call response workgroup to improve outcomes from emergency calls
- Invest in Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies (COPE) to respond to mental health emergencies
- Continue to build on community partnerships to support safety in downtown Minneapolis
- Use non-law enforcement mechanisms to manage traffic violations
- Use mediation services to respond to neighborhood disputes instead of police/inspectors
- Employ community-based crisis first responders for disturbances (Eugene, OR has a successful program running 30+ years)
- Apply a public health model approach to safety – disrupt cycles of violence through prevention programs before it spreads.
- Invest in community – the safest neighborhoods are not the ones with the most police, but the most stability and resources.
Under the current Charter, the City Council has no oversight over MPD. While MPD’s budget gobbles up $193.3 million per year, the Council has only been able to invest about $1 million in violence prevention. When the Council has attempted to shift funds from MPD to other community and safety measures, the police have retaliated by slowing emergency response times in those wards. It’s one of the reasons why Minneapolis residents are increasingly clear that MPD cannot be reformed. We need a new path forward.
What about the Mayor’s work to reform MPD?
We respectfully understand that Mayor Frey and Police Chief Arradondo must continue working on reforms where they do have oversight. At the same time, despite good-faith efforts at reform, MPD has still wholly failed us. Minneapolis residents have the responsibility to exercise our democratic power for true change. Letting Minneapolis residents vote to change the Charter this year does not disrupt any work by the Mayor or Chief, and ensures our voices can be heard.
When is the next Charter Commission meeting?
The Minneapolis City Charter Commission held a series of public hearings on the Charter Amendment, including their own proposed amendment that would eliminate minimum staffing requirements for MPD. Their next meeting is August 5th.
Take urgent action today
It’s our City, and our Charter. We have the responsibility and duty to act together to make real change possible. Minneapolis residents deserve more oversight and control over our community safety.
We have the democratic power to ensure our public departments are working in the best interest of our city and are accountable to the public. We deserve the right to vote on a meaningful City Charter amendment that allows local elected officials to carry out the people’s will.
To get the amendment on the November ballot, the Charter Commission must act by August 5th. Make your voice heard right now.