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Minneapolis councilors float new plan for police department

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Three Minneapolis City Council members who pledged to dismantle the city’s police department in the wake of George Floyd’s death announced a new proposal Thursday that they say would keep officers in the city but remove a requirement that calls for a minimum number of them.

The plan by Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher and Jeremy Schroeder calls for the city to replace its police department with a new Department of Public Safety that would include police officers and “additional divisions … to provide for a comprehensive approach to public safety beyond law enforcement.”

The proposal is similar to one that was blocked last year after the city’s Charter Commission decided to take more time to review it, essentially stopping it from advancing to the November ballot. Both proposals were designed to eliminate the police department as it is and create a new department focused on broader public safety.

Last year’s proposal made it optional to include a “Division of Law Enforcement Services,” but the new proposal says officers would be mandatory.

“Minneapolis residents are imagining a comprehensive public safety approach that is more effective and more reflective of our values, and they are calling on the city to act,” Fletcher said in a statement. “This charter amendment creates a structure that supports that vision and allows our city to innovate.”

The city and police department have come under pressure to overhaul policing since Floyd, a Black man who was in handcuffs, died on May 25 after an officer pressed a knee into his neck, even as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

The Star Tribune reports that other city services, such as the Office of Violence Prevention or 911, could roll into a Department of Public Safety, but those details would be worked out later.

The city’s charter requires Minneapolis to maintain a police department with a minimum number of officers based on the city’s population. Any change to the charter has to go through the Charter Commission, and then be put to voters.

If the proposal passes, it could have implications for police oversight and accountability.

Under the current charter, the mayor has “complete power” over the police department’s operations. The new proposal eliminates that language. In the past, Mayor Jacob Frey raised concerns about requiring police to report to the City Council, citing problems with having the agency report to “14 different elected officials with divergent public safety priorities.”