Tina Smith plans to vote against replacing Minneapolis Police Department

Smith stood by her conviction that public safety needs to undergo "transformational change."

Sen. Tina Smith speaks at a press conference with Attorney General Keith Ellison, who supports the charter amendment. (Lorie Shaull/Flickr)

Sen. Tina Smith said she will be voting “no” on a charter amendment to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety.

Amendment #2 to the Minneapolis City Charter, on the ballot this November, would create a new public safety department that “could include” police officers “if necessary.” The full text is as follows:

“Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the Police Department and replace it with a Department of Public Safety that employs a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions by the Department of Public Safety, with those specific functions to be determined by the Mayor and City Council by ordinance; which will not be subject to exclusive mayoral power over its establishment, maintenance, and command; and which could 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?”

In a statement released Monday, Sen. Smith stood by her conviction that public safety needs to undergo “transformational change,” but she expressed reservations about the amendment’s ability to address the “core challenges” of public safety.

“While there is much I agree with in the Amendment, one component poses an insurmountable problem — the requirement that the new Department of Public Safety report to both the Mayor and the City Council. My own experience working in City Hall tells me that this change will exacerbate what is a deeply flawed city governance structure, where accountability, authority and lines of responsibility between the Mayor and City Council are diffused and dysfunctional,” she said.

“I believe imposing this dysfunctional structure for public safety would likely have a negative effect on public safety and the operations of the police department. This is why I’ll oppose Charter Amendment #2,” she added.

Alpha News reported last month on the inability of Minnesota Democrats to agree on supporting or opposing the proposed amendment. The gulf shows that “reimagining public safety” is significantly easier in theory than in practice, while it also demonstrates that the language of the proposal — devised by the City Council — is vague and confusing.

Some think the vague and confusing language, which has been revised several times, is intentional. All of Mpls, a grassroots organization led by DFL activists, said that the City Council and proponents of the amendment “have not only tried to mislead voters about the most basic facts about the changes this ballot initiative makes to the charter but also about the complete absence of a plan for replacing the Police Department.”