A memo prepared by two City of Minneapolis leaders states, unequivocally, the city will still have police officers if the public safety charter amendment is approved by voters.
The memo, titled "Q & A on Public Safety Ballot Question," was sent to Mayor Jacob Frey and members of the City Council Tuesday morning in an email, a copy of which was later obtained by Bring Me The News.
The message was sent by interim City Coordinator Heather Johnston, on behalf of herself and Chief Human Resources Officer Patience Ferguson. Key city staffers, including Police Chief Medaria Arradondo (whose job could potentially be in question should the questions be approved), were CC'd on the email.
In the email, Johnston explains they have been planning for possible employee-related questions and issues that will need to be addressed should the public safety charter amendment pass. The memo — which was shared on social media by Council President Lisa Bender, Council Member Phillipe Cunningham and others — is included as an attachment.
Johnston added recipients "should feel free to share" the memo with their constituents.
A spokesperson for the city told Bring Me The News the memo was created in consultation with the City Attorney's Office, and said that as an employer, "the City is obligated to ensure it’s supporting all of its employees, recognizing that these ballot questions can cause uncertainty for staff, particularly in MPD."
Frey has come out against the ballot question, though recently re-iterated his general support for a Department of Public Safety shortly after the release of a poll showing more voters in favor of it than against it. He's also expressed concern the department would be overseen not by the mayor directly (as is the case currently with MPD) but by the mayor and council members together.
What the memo says
The entire text of the Q&A memo is below, but among its main conclusions: Police officers will be part of the Department of Public Safety.
Opponents of the proposal have cited language in the charter amendment that states the new department "could include" police officers "if necessary."
The city's memo makes clear licensed peace officers will continue to exist, writing: "Will there be police officers in the new department? Yes."
The memo goes on to explain that state law requires certain duties be performed by licensed peace officers.
And while new charter language becomes effective 30 days after its passage, Dec. 3 won't mark a sudden end to Minneapolis police.
"If Question 2 is passed, the City will continue to have licensed peace officers providing law enforcement services," the memo reads. After 30 days, the law enforcement services currently provided by MPD would simply ladder up to a new commissioner of public safety.
City Council members and the mayor would then be responsible for creating the new Department of Public Safety, including its final form and function, in a process that will extend into 2022 and possibly beyond, the memo states.
Also worth noting, the city's existing labor agreements and contracts will remain in place — meaning no MPD employees will lose their job on Nov. 3, those workers will still be employed under the same terms, and they will not have to reapply for their same jobs under the banner of a new department, according to the Q&A memo.
Here's the entirety of the memo's text:
Q & A on Public Safety Ballot Question
1. Will all of the police department employees be out of a job on November 3 if the amendment passes? No. Current labor agreements will continue to be in place.
2. Will we have to reapply for our jobs if a new department is created? No. Current labor agreements and City benefits will continue to be in place.
3. Will there be police officers in the new department? Yes. State law requires that certain duties be performed only by licensed peace officers.
4. What happens to the chain of command? Who is in charge? Immediately following the election, the current chain of command will remain in place. If passed, the new Charter language would become effective 30 days following the election, or on December 3, 2021.
5. When will the City Council decide what the new department will look like? Creation of a new
department will take time. The primary action that must be accomplished by the effective date is the appointment of an interim commissioner to lead the new Department of Public Safety; the commissioner is correspondingly vested with the performance of all law enforcement services currently provided through MPD. This step ensures command and continuity of service. The new Council and Mayor would then be responsible for finalizing the ultimate form and functions of the new department through several policy decisions in 2022 and beyond.
6. Will we still be working under the terms set out in the contract if the amendment passes? Approval of Question 2 does not alter the terms in the labor contracts.
7. What happens after 30 days? If Question 2 is passed, the City will continue to have licensed peace officers providing law enforcement services. There will be a longer-term process led by the City Council that will result in ordinance changes and that process will ultimately create a new structure for a public safety department.