The Potluck

Coalition says it’s gathered over 20,000 signatures to put replacing Minneapolis Police Department on ballot

By: - April 22, 2021 11:57 am

Community organizer Julia Johnson at a kick-off event for the petition drive to replace the Minneapolis Police Department near the burned-out Third Precinct on a sub-zero February 13, 2021. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

The spokeswoman for a citizen petition drive to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department says the coalition has gathered more than 20,000 signatures — 8,000 more than needed — and will file the petition on April 30.

Corenia Smith, campaign manager for Yes4Minneapolis, said the coalition has spent the past few weeks verifying signatures itself before officially filing the petition with the city elections office.

If their signatures are verified as registered voters’ signatures, Minneapolis voters would vote in November on eliminating the police department and creating a new public safety agency that would take a public health approach to safety.

The agency would still include armed police, as state law requires certain duties be performed by licensed peace officers. The group’s website says police would not disappear with a “yes” vote; it would just give the city more options for safety than the “police-only” model.

To do that, voters would decide whether to amend the city charter — which is like a constitution — to take MPD out.

The Minneapolis City Council is also pushing a similar charter amendment, but the two are working together and council members have said they would drop theirs if the citizen petition drive succeeds.

Smith has said the council option was a backup in case her group had trouble gathering enough signatures. Since 2003, there have been three citizen petitions, but none of them made the ballot after being opposed by the city and rejected by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

The City Council voted 11-2 last month to send its proposed charter amendment to the Minneapolis Charter Commission for review. Council member Steve Fletcher said the Charter Commission was scheduled to have its first subcommittee meeting about the council amendment Tuesday, but it was canceled when the Derek Chauvin murder trial verdict came in.

If the charter amendment makes it on the ballot, Minneapolis voters will get their first chance to weigh in on restructuring policing since George Floyd was killed. The mayor and all 13 City Council seats will also be on the ballot — as well as a Charter Commission proposal that would give the mayor more power — in what will be a pivotal election for the city.

The petition drive is being driven by a grassroots coalition, including Black Visions Collective, ACLU Minnesota and Reclaim the Block. It was juiced by a $500,000 donation from the Open Society Policy Center — which is backed by the family of billionaire liberal activist George Soros.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.