Why some Democrats oppose replacing Minneapolis police force


As activists rallied to demand that Minneapolis residents replace their police force, a moderate Congresswoman was one of the first to criticize the plan. She doesn’t live anywhere near the city and isn’t even a Democrat.

Angie Craig called it “shortsighted and misguided” and warned it would lead to the departure of the popular Black chief .

Ms. Craig’s area covers an urban-to-rural, politically divided part of south-central Philadelphia. However her willingness to get involved in the next-door fight highlights the political danger that Democrats such as Ms. Craig perceive in this proposal.

As an area that is synonymous with abuse of police, this effort is dividing Democrats along ideologies. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Olmar and Attorney General Keith Ellison, two of the state’s most prominent progressives, support the plan. It would create a Department of Public Safety to replace the current police department. The plan is also supported by other top Democrats such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Tim Walz opposes it.

The debate has dominated the City Council and mayoral races. This is the first race since George Floyd was shot and killed by a Minneapolis cop in May 2020. It has sparked an international racial reckoning. The amendment’s passage would mark a significant victory for reform movements, both in terms of substance and symbolism. Many in the Democratic Establishment believe that calls to “dismantle or defund” the police resulted in losing party seats last year in Congress and statehouses. It’s not something they want to see happen next year. The Minneapolis ordinance defeat has been a high-profile, critical test.

” When it comes to reforming police forces, the majority of people support it. “When we use the word “defund,” we lose the argument,” stated Colin Strother (a Texas-based Democratic strategist). “Democrats that keep using ‘defund the police’ are only hurting themselves and the cause, quite frankly.”

The ballot proposal slated for the Nov. 2 election asks voters whether they want to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety that would take a “comprehensive public health approach” that “could include” police officers “if necessary.” It doesn’t use the word “defund,” and critics say that was a deliberate attempt by a majority of City Council members to conceal their aims.

Mr. Ellison is a strong supporter for the amendment and said that they simply need more tools to ensure public safety than a police-only model. These people want more experts in the areas of mental health, housing violence reduction and intervention. They also need to be better equipped to deal with situations that are currently being faced by armed police officers.

But, he is wary about the expression “defund police,” which he described as “a cry to reform” from young people outraged at George Floyd’s death .”

Mr. Ellison stated that he doesn’t use it and called it “hot rhetoric”, not a policy or program that accurately describes what the amendment would accomplish. He also dismissed the notion that Democrats shouldn’t be scared to support the amendment and said Republicans would attack the issue no matter what the topic is.

Minister JaNaeBates is a spokesperson for Yes 4 Minneapolis, which supports the amendment. She said that she was frustrated at the divisions between Democrats. She said that those who portray the proposal as defunding police use “fear-based rhetoric”, and “right-wing dogs whistles” to distract. She stated that police will “most definitely” be part of the new agency, along with professional trained in handling situations where armed officers may not be suited.

“The truth is that Democrats, progressives and liberals across the board want people safe, which is why this charter change is being proposed,” Ms. Bates stated .

Ms. Omar (Minneapolis) claims that the amendment is “not radical”. In an opinion piece in the Star Tribune she stated that what’s “radical” is the way opponents tried to block it from the ballot. She also said it was misrepresenting the effect of the amendment.

The ballot question attracted a lot of attention, with glossy mailers appearing all over the city and advertisements filling every social media platform since early September.

The Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign has raised over $1 million in cash and nearly $500,000 of in-kind donations from across the country, according to campaign finance reports filed in August. Its financing included $500,000 in seed money from the Open Society Policy Center, which has ties to billionaire George Soros. The group stressed the importance of change and reassured voters that the new structure would make people safer. It has also disputed suggestions from opponents that passage would mean the departure of Medaria Arradondo, the city’s popular Black chief, even though Mr. Arradondo said passage would put any law enforcement leader in a “wholly unbearable position.”

The much newer All of Mpls, which opposes the amendment, raised more than $100,000 in its first few weeks, mostly locally. The amendment, which leaves the City Council and mayor with the task of figuring out details in a very short period after the election has led to it playing up uncertainty about how the new department will work.

University of Minnesota political science Larry Jacobs said that the “defund” issue helped Republicans to hold their ground in Minnesota’s legislature races in 2020, despite Joe Biden being elected statewide. According to him, it was clear that Republicans “defunding police” worked in their favor back then and can be done again .

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York won a Staten Island seat by opposing defunding police. In July, Eric Adams, a moderate Democrat and former captain of the New York Police Department, won New York’s mayoral primaries on a platform that rejected activists’ calls for defunding police U.S. New York’s Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair, has resisted the defund rhetoric by pointing out that the March American Rescue Plan stimulus bill contained $350 million to support the police departments.

” If this thing passes, as a lot people believe and assume it will, then there’s going be huge national backlash, not only in Minnesota.” said Republican strategist Billy Grant. His clients include former Marine Tyler Kistner, who is Ms. Craig’s probable opponent.

” People will say that they have shown they are capable of this. That’s going to have a domino effect.”

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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