Minneapolis voters decided on Tuesday not to replace their police force with a new department that would have taken a holistic approach to crime, 18 months after the murder of George Floyd in the city sparked global protests for racial justice.
With all precincts reporting, more than 56 per cent of voters rejected a ballot asking residents if they wanted to create a new Department of Public Safety to take the place of the police department.
Leili Fatehi, campaign manager for All of Mpls, which campaigned against dissolving the police department, said voters gave a clear mandate for continuing to work on reforms within the structure of the agency.
“What we want to see happen next is for the residents of Minneapolis to unite behind holding the next mayor and city council accountable for rolling up their sleeves and doing that hard work without delay,” Ms Fatehi said.
Minneapolis was thrust to the centre of the US racial justice debate in May 2020 when officer Derek Chauvin pinned his knee against the neck of Floyd, a black man, for more than nine minutes. Chauvin was sentenced in June to 22.5 years in prison. Three other officers charged in Floyd's death face trial in March.
Floyd's death ignited calls from activists to “defund the police” — which even most of those who supported scrapping the Minneapolis police department rejected. Instead, they called for rethinking how and when police are used, not the disbanding all armed officers.
Democrats were split over the ballot question. Many feared dissolving the department would provide easy election fodder for Republicans nationwide before November 2022 congressional elections.
Opposed to the measure were Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo; Mayor Jacob Frey, who was up for re-election on Tuesday; Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator; and Governor Tim Walz.
Some of the state's best-known progressives — such as representative Ilhan Omar and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who oversaw Chauvin's prosecution — supported the change.