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Still hurdles to clear, but city council approves moving forward with replacing Minneapolis Police Department

There remain steps to be taken to get the amendment on the November ballot.

The Minneapolis City Council has taken another step forward in its pursuit to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department, with members voting unanimously Friday to change the city charter, though Minneapolis voters will ultimately determine what happens to the police force. 

Earlier this month, the city council announced its intentions to end the police department in its current following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man who was handcuffed and begging for help to breathe as three officers pinned him to the ground. 

All 12 council members voted in favor of changing the city charter on Friday, and a draft of the proposed changes released by the council shows a plan to replace police with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention that would be responsible for "public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach."

The proposal includes hiring a director of the department who "will have non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches."

The director would also oversee a Division of Law Enforcement Services, which would be led by its own director and would still include "licensed police officers." The director of this division would be subject to approval by the City Council and mayor. 

“Of course we still have to have emergency response for those situations that are difficult to de-escalate, but I think that it’s important for us to keep in perspective that most of what police do is not respond to violent situations,” Councilman Jeremiah Ellison told WCCO-TV.

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The charter requires the city council to maintain a minimum force based on the city's population, which FOX 9 recently reported it to be approximately 723 officers. 

The unanimous vote comes as a bit of a surprise considering three of the 12 members (1 seat is vacant) voted against dismantling the police department in early June. But to get the charter changes on this November's ballot, the council must first have the proposal reviewed by a policy committee and the Minneapolis Charter Commission, which would give residents a chance to voice their opinions. 

The amendment needs to be formalized and finalized by Aug. 21, the deadline to be cleared for voting in November. 

Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission, told the Star Tribune that if his commission is able to properly review the changes by its Aug. 5 meeting, the city council may have enough time to get the issue on the ballot. 

The charter amendment being proposed comes amid an alarming rise in gun violence in the city, with MPD reporting earlier this week that more than 110 people had been shot in Minneapolis since Floyd's death. 

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