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Ballot language to replace police department gets Minneapolis council’s OK

The Minneapolis City Council on Friday endorsed ballot language that would allow residents in November to decide if they want to replace the police department.

The city has been under pressure to overhaul its policing system following George Floyd’s fatal encounter with former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin last year. Chauvin was sentenced to 22 and a half years for the murder of Floyd. A Justice Department probe into the department’s policing practices has compounded that pressure.

Council members approved the wording in a 12-1 vote, according to NBC affiliate KARE of Minneapolis.

The question approved on Friday reads: “Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to strike and replace the Police Department with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach, and which would include licensed peace officers (police officers) if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety, with the general nature of the amendments being briefly indicated in the explanatory note below, which is made a part of this ballot?”

If the measure passes, the public safety department would be led by a commissioner nominated by the mayor and appointed by the city council. The Minneapolis police chief and mayor would also be stripped of their power over the department.

The city council will also not be required to fund a police force of at least 1.7 employees per 1,000 residents or charge taxable properties an additional 0.3 percent of its value each year to fund compensation for police force employees, officials said.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who is running for re-election, said he will not sign off on the ballot question.

“Frey maintains that giving the Minneapolis City Council control over public safety work would mark a major setback for accountability and good governance,” his office said in a statement to KARE. “The mayor will not be signing the measure, but appreciates the careful work and thorough analysis done by City staff to prepare fair and accurate language for voters to consider this fall.”

Frey has until the end of the day Thursday to approve or veto the ballot language, according to city rules. If he does not take action, the city will send the language to Hennepin County for printing on the ballot.

The ballot measure seeking to replace the city’s police department was proposed and petitioned by the citizen-led advocacy group “Yes 4 Minneapolis,” which describes itself as a “coalition of residents, neighbors, businesses, organizations, faith communities, and families across the city who are saying yes to creating a safe Minneapolis for all of us,” according to their website.

The group delivered a 20,000-signature petition to city officials in April. The signatures were verified by the city clerk’s office before going before the City Council.

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