U.S.

‘No’ on Minneapolis’s Anti-police Ballot Measure

A Minneapolis Police officer at a crime scene in Minneapolis, Minn., June 16, 2020. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Virginia’s gubernatorial election isn’t the only race with possible national implications this year. Minneapolis’s local elections will have a lot to say about the status of the anti-police movement. City Question 2 is the most direct referendum yet on whether the anti-police message has any purchase with voters.

City Question 2 asks whether voters wish to replace the police department with a “Department of Public Safety” that would “employ a comprehensive public health approach” to public safety. It’s not strictly “defund the police.” The new department would be allowed to hire “licensed peace officers,” which the ballot measure acknowledges in parentheses are the same as police officers. But the police department and the police chief would be removed from the city charter, and the existing minimum funding and staffing requirements for police would be eliminated.

Mayor Jacob Frey, who is up for re-election, opposes the measure, in part because it also removes the police from his office’s sole authority and places the new department under joint control of the mayor and the city council. Governor Tim Walz, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Representative Angie Craig — all Democrats — also oppose the measure.

Representative Ilhan Omar, on the other hand, is in support. So is Attorney General (and former deputy chairman of the DNC) Keith Ellison. “We have an opportunity, once and for all, to listen to those most impacted by police brutality and the communities who have been demanding change for decades,” Omar wrote for the Star Tribune.

It’s unclear whom Omar is listening to. Keith Ellison’s son, Jeremiah, is a city councilman who represents a majority-black area of Minneapolis. He told Politico that he has been listening to his constituents, and they’re concerned about the ballot measure. “A major overhaul of policing is a bridge too far for many of them,” Politico reports.

His anecdotal evidence aligns with Star Tribune polling, which shows that only 14 percent of black voters believe Minneapolis should reduce the size of its police force. Seventy-five percent say it should not. Among black voters, the current police chief (who is black and has been in office since 2017, i.e., before, during, and after George Floyd’s murder) is extremely popular — 75 percent favorable, 9 percent unfavorable. White voters’ approval is much lower, at 56-23. On the ballot measure, black support trails white support by nine percentage points — 51 percent of whites want the new Department of Public Safety, but only 42 percent of blacks do.

Those numbers indicate that this vote could be very close. It shouldn’t be. The people of Minneapolis don’t need progressives playing word games with “licensed peace officers.” Violent crime was up 17 percent in Minnesota last year, and murders were up 58 percent, breaking a record set in 1995. Minneapolis, like all cities, needs police. The heady days of “defund the police” seem to be behind us, as even the progressive activists in support of City Question 2 have insisted it does not defund the police. But there are plenty of bad ideas short of defunding the police that should be rejected nonetheless. This ballot measure is one of them.

By rejecting City Question 2, Minneapolis voters have a chance to send a message to the country. Anti-police progressives are on the defensive. Much of the Democratic Party in Minnesota wants nothing to do with this ballot measure. Most black voters, whom the progressives claim to want to help, overwhelmingly reject many of their views. A good, clear “No” from the voters in hyper-progressive Minneapolis, the cradle of last year’s “defund” movement, has the potential to drive a stake through the radical anti-police movement nationwide.

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