Crowds at North High listen to the public safety debate

Three weeks before election day, voters in northern Minneapolis heard from both sides of the debate on whether or not the MPD should be replaced.

MINNEAPOLIS – Residents of Minneapolis packed the North High School auditorium on Tuesday night for a 90-minute debate on whether the Minneapolis Police Department should be replaced, exactly three weeks before Election Day in races municipal council of the city.

The community forum, sponsored by the NAACP Minneapolis and the League of Women Voters Minneapolis, brought together speakers from both sides of the issue. JaNaé Bates, the communications director of the Yes 4 Minneapolis group who asked to put the subject on the ballot, advocated for the proposal, while peace activist Reverend Jerry McAfee expressed concern against the measure.

If passed, the city’s question 2 would eliminate the minimum funding requirement for police personnel, give oversight of the new public security service to the mayor and city ​​council, and could include police “if necessary”.

In his opening response, McAfee called the idea of ​​replacing MPD a “joke”, slamming the ballot question as “vague” and out of touch. As the religious leader who organized the 21 Days of Peace campaign this summer, McAfee also cited rising homicide rates as a reason not to dismantle the current police system.

“We don’t know what it’s going to do. We can’t even really answer the questions because I don’t know where it’s been done before. And I don’t want to be another test case,” McAfee said. “I did three funerals about a week ago – not a single person was 30, okay? That’s what I see.”

Bates, meanwhile, responded by saying that “the only current response from the armed police in Minneapolis has not worked.” She also insisted that the new public security ministry would still include police officers, as required by a state warrant.

However, Bates said releasing the department from city charter restrictions would provide more flexibility and give elected council members more voice over public safety.

“City council currently has no power with the police department, which means your direct representation has no power and no ability to say what should and shouldn’t protect you,” Bates said.

The debate offered voters in northern Minneapolis a chance to learn more about the ballot question, described in the introduction by North High manager Mauri Friestleben as “a matter of life and death.”

During talks with KARE 11 ahead of the forum, members of the public expressed a wide range of views on the proposal to replace MPD.

Michael Pugh, who has owned a home in North Minneapolis for about 15 years, said he plans to vote “no” on the city’s Question 2.

“My biggest concern is the way the amendment is worded. It looks like that takes the police out,” Pugh said. “And I think that’s how a lot of people are going to see it.”

Al Flowers, a longtime peace activist in Minneapolis, also said he plans to vote no because he is “nervous that we are doing something that hasn’t been thought of” and is worried about the place of Chief Medaria Arradondo in the new plan. (the question of the ballot proposes to remove a “chief” from the charter of the city).

Flowers criticized the rhetoric used by some supporters.

“To abolish, to dismantle, to fund the police, that opens the door for me to criminal activity,” said Flowers. “And we take the brunt of it.”

Near North owner Robert Huggar, however, said the proposal “was poorly worded at first.” He supports the amendment to the charter and plans to vote “yes”.

“This is about creating a Ministry of Public Security, where the chief of police would report not only to the mayor but also to the board of directors,” said Huggar. “People are just frustrated. If you look at how the area is maintained by the police department, it is in dire need of improvement. I totally agree.”

Kitty Stratton, who has lived on the North Side for about six years, agreed that the model of public safety in Minneapolis needed a new look after the murder of George Floyd.

“Minneapolis,” she said, “has an incredible opportunity to make real change for everyone in the world. “

Despite the sometimes heated debate, supporters and supporters nonetheless found common ground. Michael Pugh, one of the opponents of the measure, prefers a so-called “both / and” approach that enacts police reforms within the existing structure of the MPD.

“It seems to divide, the way we approach it, but I think at the end of the day we both want the same thing,” Pugh said. “That’s kind of how I see it.”

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