Election Results Leave Unclear Path for Public Safety

Abi Hilden, staff writer

Election results are in, and Minneapolis voters have rejected a ballot measure to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department. Labelled on the ballot as “Question 2,” the proposed measure would have replaced the MPD with a Department of Public Safety. The measure was ultimately rejected, only accumulating a vote of 43% in favor.

This is not the first time community members’ requests to get rid of the police department have been denied. Shortly after the initial protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, many community members called on Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey to abolish the police department. When he declined to do so, demonstrators showed up outside of his house to protest his decision. Nine of the 13 members of the Minneapolis City Council also vowed to defund the police department in order to replace it with a better system of community protection. Jacob Frey won reelection this year, adding police reform to his campaign platform, but what would this look like if that hadn’t happened? Frey has already sanctioned a portion of the 2022 budget proposal for public safety changes. The proposed changes focus on increasing officer accountability and shifting training to a more community-oriented model of policing.

Many who voted against the ballot measure still agree that there is work to be done with police reform. They cited a lack of a coherent plan and wanting to use the department’s current framework for reform as reasons they rejected the ballot initiative. 

Others, such as Augburg’s Pre-Law Advisor Professor Milda Hedblom, believe that a combination of the vagueness of the question and a recent uptick in crime contributed to the initiative not passing. “Residents in communities of color who may face violence in their streets regularly did not want to hear vague proposals,” she said. “Nor did residents in southwest and lakeside areas. A less vague proposal might have done better – or worse.”

On the other hand, many supporters believed that the measure already had a clear plan for the 30 day timeframe it states. The 30 days would be a period of transition for the mayor to appoint an interim commissioner of the new Department of Public Safety and then work together with the community to combine the police force with professionals in the public health field.

Professor Andrew Aoki, of Augsburg’s Political Science Department, believes that many of the things included in the ballot measure could have been done and still can be done even with its rejection. “For many, it was either “Yes,” “No,” Frey, or “No,” “Yes,” Nezhad or Knuth or anyone other than Frey,” he said. “Had Question 2 been viewed independently of those other questions, it may have had a better chance of passage. The only goal that required approval of the question was a substantial reduction in the size of the police force.”

It will be interesting to see the aftermath of this election in the following months. Has this rejection stopped defunding the police entirely? Or is this merely a speed bump on the road to police reform? Only time will tell.