As Minneapolis prepares to take a highly-contentious vote on the future of public safety in the city, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo held a rare press conference Wednesday to have his say on Question 2.
The vote on Tuesday will determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department will continue in its current form, or whether it will fall under the jurisdiction of a new Department of Public Safety led by a newly-appointed Public Safety Commissioner. It would also change the city charter to remove the requirements for minimum officer staffing levels and the police chief position.
The question made its way onto the November ballot after a petition was signed by 22,000 city residents, but it has proven to be a divisive issue, splitting city leaders on the best way to rebuild the trust in policing in the wake of George Floyd's murder by then-serving officer Derek Chauvin, and the alleged targeting of civilians by police in the protests and riots that followed.
One of the uncertainties regarding the Tuesday elections has been what happens in the event of a "Yes" vote, but the City of Minneapolis issued a memo on Tuesday that stated unequivocally that the city would still have police officers if the public safety charter amendment passes, noting that state law requires certain duties be performed by licensed peace officers.
On Wednesday, Arradondo spoke out in favor of a "No" vote, but was asked if he was confident that officers, who have been accused of taking a "hands-off" approach to crime over the past 18 months (which Arradondo denies), would still show up for work in the event of a "Yes" vote.
"Minneapolis police officers, we have taken a dedicated oath of service to our communities, we will continue to be there for them," he said.
"I'm confident that they will show up. I'm confident that the oath that they have taken ... I want to put things in perspective. We're operating at a third less of a department, the men and women who have currently showed up and continue to show up during civil unrest have been pelted with bottles and bricks, who've rushed into scenes of shooting victims and applied tourniquets and placed people in their car ... who continue to reach out in all communities. That social contract they make is far more important than any other type of contract."
Arradondo mentioned that MPD has seen a significant drop in the number serving officers since Floyd's murder, with officers either choosing to retire or filing for long-term disability benefits.
He criticized the language of the ballot question, which notes that the new Department of Public Safety could include licensed peace officers "if necessary." This two-word term, he says, is unlikely to encourage any prospective officers from joining the force, or prevent further attrition of existing staff members.
While he referred to officers being "pelted with bottles and bricks" during the unrest, he failed to address – nor was he asked to by media present – the allegations against officers in the wake of the acquittal of Jaleel Stallings, who was charged with attempted murder after firing on MPD officers during last year's riots, only for it to emerge he'd been fired upon first by officers who approached in an unmarked van.
Subsequent body cam footage released by Stallings' legal team depicts officers discussing "hunting" protesters in the wake of Floyd's death and laughing as they shot at them with "less lethal" bullets.
Arradondo was critical over what he perceives to be the lack of planning in place in the event of a "Yes" vote, with such a vote triggering a process whereby a public safety commissioner would be appointed after 30 days followed by further discussions and public input for how the new department – which supporters say would place a greater emphasis on addressing the root causes of crime – would operate.
In any case, Arradondo does not believe replacing MPD with a Department of Public Safety will solve the problems facing the city,
"As chief, here's what I can tell you ballot question No. 2 will not do for you: It will not eliminate tragic incidents between police and community from ever occurring in our city; it will not reduce the disproportionate violent crime disparities involving African American victims which has been a public health crisis in our city for decades. It will not suddenly change a culture of a police department that has been in existence for 155 years; it will not engender trust or confidence in new economic or business development, tourism and entertainment opportunities for this great city of ours; it will not help the MPD's effort to recruit, hire, and retain a diverse workforce of caring ... dedicated professionals; and it will not make it easier for neighboring law enforcement jurisdictions to assist the City of Minneapolis in our crime reduction efforts."
Arradondo is also facing scrutiny in the wake of his press conference for publicly speaking out against Question 2, with some pointing out that the City of Minneapolis code of ethics states employees should not use their positions "to take part in political activity."
Bring Me The News has reached out to MPD for a reaction to this.
As for his own future, Arradondo has not yet said whether he will continue in his role of MPD chief regardless of the vote's result. His current term is up in January 2022. He said he would have to discuss his situation with his family.