The Potluck

Sens. Klobuchar, Smith don’t say how they’ll vote on Minneapolis police ballot question

By: - August 26, 2021 9:46 am

From left, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith

With a bit more than two months until Election Day, it’s unclear how U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith — both residents of Minneapolis — will vote on the public safety ballot question that, if passed, would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new department of public safety under control of the city council.

The upcoming ballot initiative is the end result of a lengthy and contentious debate that began with the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Days later, nine members of the Minneapolis City Council joined together on a Powderhorn Park stage bedecked with a banner that read, “Defund police.”

The ballot initiative is already causing deep divisions in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, whose suburban elected officials fear a backlash if they support dismantling the police department, which was a frequent attack line from Republicans in 2020.

U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, whose 2nd Congressional District does not include Minneapolis, issued a statement Monday saying she opposed the “Yes 4 Minneapolis” referendum.

“I am strongly opposed to the Minneapolis Ballot Initiative, which I believe would jeopardize public safety and diminish accountability,” Craig said. “Given the gravity of this situation and the implications that it could have on our great state and region, I feel a responsibility to speak out against this initiative, which would create confusion and uncertainty around public safety in the largest city in our state — while potentially undermining the safety and security of our communities.”

The proposed ballot initiative would amend the city’s charter, which is like a constitution, eliminating a requirement to have a police department and instead forming a Department of Public Safety, which would comprise mental health professionals along with police to respond to emergency calls. The City Council would be newly empowered to manage the department, whereas the current police department is solely under the authority of the mayor.

A Smith spokesman said by email that Smith had not yet focused attention on the measure, but she has previously stated she does not support efforts to defund the police.

Emails seeking comment from a Klobuchar spokesperson were not returned. Klobuchar has similarly said she does not support efforts to abolish police departments.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.