Minneapolis voters have blocked one way forward in the city’s need to both control crime and control its police. What comes next is unclear.
Opponents of Amendment 2 — the failed measure that would have allowed the city to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety — maintained that the proposal lacked the necessary details.
They won the plebiscite over the specific amendment. They also secured the reelection of Mayor Jacob Frey, the closest thing to a defender of the current system in the field, and the defeat of some of the amendment’s proponents on the City Council.
Frey and his allies also secured the passage of Amendment 1, which increases the mayor’s executive authority over the rest of city government and decreases the power of the council. In terms of policing, Amendment 1 changes little; even under the city’s traditional “weak mayor, strong council” system, the mayor had sole authority over the police.
Frey achieved little in that field in his first term. It is far from certain that he can achieve more in his second.
Few in Minnesota’s largest city — and certainly not the mayor — deny that it badly needs major change in its policing. Minneapolis needs the ability to rid itself of brutal officers, who are well protected from meaningful discipline by their powerful union and that union’s allies in the state Legislature. It needs to instill a culture in its police force of protect and serve rather than occupy and dominate. It needs to better calibrate the proportion of force to threat when responding to calls.
The rest of Minnesota has a role to play in all that. No matter the outcome of Tuesday’s election, state law continues to handcuff the mayor in whatever reform measures he seeks to undertake (and if Amendment 2 was vague and uncertain as to the future, so is the mayor). The Legislature, and in particular the Republican-led Senate, would do well to drop its reflexive support of the Police Federation and opposition to genuine change.