Minneapolis council member revives effort to replace police department

Voters rejected a proposal to replace the police department in November.

Council Member Elliott Payne speaks during a City Council committee meeting Monday. (City of Minneapolis/YouTube)

A new member of the Minneapolis City Council has revived the debate over replacing the city’s police department with a “department of public safety,” an idea that was soundly rejected by voters in November.

Council Member Elliott Payne intends to introduce an ordinance to amend the Minneapolis City Charter during Thursday’s City Council meeting. The ordinance would provide for “the creation of a new Public Safety Department.”

There are two ways of amending the charter in Minneapolis: by ballot question and by ordinance. The ballot-question route failed in November when voters rejected a proposal to replace the police department in a vote of 56% to 43%.

Amending the charter by ordinance requires the unanimous support of the full City Council and approval by the mayor, both of which are unlikely. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey opposed the ballot initiative to replace the police department and was reelected.

The November elections also saw the defeat of Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher, both vocal supporters of the ballot initiative.

Payne, whose ward supported the ballot initiative, announced his proposal just days after 22-year-old Amir Locke was shot by a member of a Minneapolis SWAT team. The SWAT team was executing a no-knock search warrant in connection to a St. Paul homicide investigation, which concluded this week when Locke’s cousin was charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

Mayor Frey indefinitely paused the use of no-knock warrants in Minneapolis following Locke’s death and Democrats are now proposing a statewide ban on the practice.

Locke’s death set off another round of protests in Minneapolis, which included a demonstration outside of the police chief’s home and calls for political violence.