Minnesota Supreme Court rules Minneapolis voters may decide on abolishing police department
The ruling comes more than a year after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis while in police custody
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that voters in Minneapolis may decide on whether or not to abolish the police department in the upcoming municipal elections.
"We're incredibly thrilled that the people of Minneapolis have their democracy honored," JaNaé Bates, a spokeswoman for Yes 4 Minneapolis, which wrote the proposal, told the Star Tribune. "The Supreme Court recognized that we were on the right side of the law, we were on the right side of democracy, and we're going to be [on] the right side of history as we move forward."
If passed, the measure would do away with the Minneapolis charter requirement to have a police department with a minimum level of staffing. Minneapolis would instead replace the police department with a public safety department "that employs a comprehensive public health approach."
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"A case with this many motions, and this many ups and downs usually takes 12 months. There's little time in the course of this to feel exhilaration when we won or disappointment when we lost, because there was always more to do," said Terrance W. Moore, an attorney for Yes 4 Minneapolis. "We felt it was important to be resilient and follow the course of the law and the course of the process and, ugly as it was, the process worked."
The state’s Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling that rejected ballot language for not sufficiently describing the measure's effects.
The language "is unreasonable and misleading," Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson wrote in the order last week.
"The court finds that the current ballot language is vague, ambiguous and incapable of implementation, and is insufficient to identify the amendment clearly," she continued.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came just before the start of early voting for Minneapolis municipal elections at 8 a.m. Friday. Election day for the city will be held on Nov. 2.
Former council member Don Samuels is among the opponents of the amendment and said that the language of the ballot question leaves important questions unexplained, including how the new department would be implemented and led.
A lawyer for Samuels, Joseph Anthony, said his clients never objected to letting voters decide whether or not to abolish the police, but that Yes 4 Minneapolis "could never get the language right because everything came back to defunding the police."
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The ballot measure comes after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody on Memorial Day of 2020, which sparked a nationwide "defund the police" movement.
A handful of liberal cities that supported the defund movement in the last year, however, have since become vocal in their support for more police officers, including in Seattle where the mayor said the police department needs to be beefed up amid an increase in crime.
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"As a city, we cannot continue on this current trajectory of losing police officers," Mayor Jenny Durkan said during a press conference in July. "Over the past 17 months, the Seattle Police Department has lost 250 police officers, which is the equivalent of over 300,000 service hours. We’re on path to losing 300 police officers."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.