2021 elections

Minneapolis Voters Reject Overhaul of Police Department

Demonstrators calling to defund the Minneapolis Police Department march on Hennepin Avenue in June 2020. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Voters in Minneapolis resoundingly rejected a ballot question that would have overhauled the city’s troubled police department, with the measure going down to defeat by about 12 points.

The proposal, drawn up in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder last year, would have replaced the current police department with a new Department of Public Safety controlled by the mayor and the city council. It also would have ended a decades-old requirement that the city employ a minimum number of police officers. Under the plan, police officers would still exist, but they would be reserved to respond to specific situations, such as violent encounters. Mental-health crises and other nonviolent episodes would typically be handled by non-police professionals like social workers. The idea was to reimagine, not just reform, a department known for brutal tactics and fostering distrust among Black residents. But many details of how the new regime would actually work were hazy, which may have hurt its chances of success.

Vigorously pushed by progressives in and outside of government, the measure was opposed by the city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, who easily won re-election on Tuesday, as well as Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and the state’s governor, Tim Walz. As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, several of the city council members who touted the proposal lost their races.

“Minneapolis right now is sending a message to the entire nation that real progress requires real work,” Frey said at an election party.  “We need deep, structural change to policing in America. At the same time, we need police officers to make sure that they are working directly with the community to keep us safe.”

Philippe Cunningham, a city council member in favor of the proposal, said, “We have just seen a clear backlash to progress in our city.”

Minneapolis was the epicenter of protests around police violence and racial justice last year, following the murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin. Weeks later, the city council pledged to defund the police department, an effort that ended up going nowhere.

Minneapolis Voters Reject Overhaul of Police Department