Despite rising crime, Ellison supports replacing Minneapolis Police Department

Ellison cited George Floyd’s death in police custody as one reason for backing the change.

Lorie Shaull/Flickr

(The Center Square) — Despite rising violent crime, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison supports the replacement of the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety, a question voters will decide in November.

“Fundamentally, communities across Mpls need & want the possibility for reform & accountability, which the current Charter blocks by locking us into an outdated model for law enforcement and safety,” he tweeted. “They want to end the cycle of inaction.”

The charter provision Ellison mentions mandates a minimum number of police officers, which the city is currently violating.

In August 2020, eight city residents sued, saying the city was violating its charter requiring funding a minimum Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) force of 0.0017 employees per resident, or roughly 730 officers.

Minneapolis is the largest city in the state, with about 435,000 residents. Ellison cited George Floyd’s death in police custody as one reason for backing the change.

The proposal will ask voters if they want to approve a plan to replace the police department with a new public safety department focused on a “comprehensive public safety approach” that would include police officers “if necessary to fulfill the department’s responsibilities.”

A new political committee calling itself Yes 4 Minneapolis gathered 20,000 petition signatures to place a question on the ballot to amend the city’s charter. In February, the Minnesota Reformer reported the group is fueled by a $500,000 donation from progressive billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center, citing campaign finance documents.

“This year the residents of Mpls have asked for and can take that first step of action on the ballot,” Ellison tweeted. “As a resident of Mpls where George Floyd’s murder sparked a national call for real reform, I will vote Yes for greater public safety & more human rights for all. #Yes4Minneapolis.”

The ballot measure follows surges of violent crime while police presence dwindles. While voters will decide whether to eliminate a minimum police force in November, a July 2021 court order mandates the city to hire a total of 730 police officers by next summer.

Minneapolis City Attorney Jim Rowader requested the state Supreme Court accelerate a ruling on the July court order to minimize confusion.

Ellison’s support for the ballot measure follows a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension report finding Minnesota set an all-time record of 185 homicides in 2020 — a 58% spike over 2019. Violent crime overall increased by 16%. 2020 broke the Gopher State’s all-time homicide record of 183 in 1995 when Minneapolis was dubbed “Murderapolis.”

Arson rose 53.7% over 2019, from 462 cases to 710 in 2020. Motor vehicle theft increased by nearly 20%, with 13,662 vehicles stolen — the highest since 2005 — compared to 11,410 in 2019. Other report highlights include:

  • 31 officer-involved shooting incidents reported in 2020, an increase of six over 2019
  • A record 667 assaults on police officers in the line of duty in 2020 — a 62% increase over 2019
  • The value of property stolen in 2020 topped $216 million, a 54.5% increase over 2019