Democrats see political peril in Minneapolis PD replacement


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – As activists rallied this summer to call on Minneapolis voters to replace their police department, one of the first leading Democrats to criticize the plan was a moderate MP who doesn’t even live in the city.

Angie Craig said it “short-sighted, misguided and likely to harm the very communities he seeks to protect.” She warned it could drive the popular black police chief out of town.

Craig’s District covers a suburban to rural and politically divided region south of the city, but his willingness to jump into the fight next door highlights the political threat Democrats like Craig see in the proposal.

As a city that has become synonymous with police abuse fights against police reform, the effort sharply divides Democrats along ideological lines. The state’s best-known progressives – US Representative Ilhan Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison – support the plan, which would replace the police department with a new Department of Public Safety. Other leading Democrats, including Senator Amy Klobuchar and Governor Tim Walz, oppose it.

Debate dominates city mayor and city council races, the first since a Minneapolis cop killed George Floyd in May 2020 and sparked a worldwide racial calculation. The adoption of the amendment would be a major victory for the reform movement – both in substance and in symbolism. But many in the Democratic establishment believe that calls to “dismantle” or “fund” police cost the party seats in state houses and Congress last year. They are determined not to let this happen again next year. Defeating the Minneapolis measure has become a critical and high-profile test.

“If we are talking about reforming the police, people are overwhelmingly in favor of it. When we say “defund” we lose the argument, ”said Colin Strother, a Texas-based Democratic strategist. “Democrats who continue to use ‘police fund’ only hurt themselves and the cause, quite frankly.”

The proposed ballot asks voters if they want to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety that would take a “comprehensive approach to public health” that “could include” police “if necessary. He doesn’t use the word “defund” and critics say it was a deliberate attempt by a majority of city council members to cover up their goals.

Ellison, a strong supporter of the proposal, said in an interview that supporters of the amendment simply want “more tools to ensure public safety, more than just a police-only model.” They want others who have expertise in mental health, housing, violence reduction and response ”who are better trained to handle the situations that armed police now face on their own.

But he is wary of the phrase “funding the police”, which he called “a call for reform” which comes from “young people who were absolutely outraged by what happened to George Floyd”.

Ellison said he avoided using it, calling it “burning rhetoric, not a policy, not a program” that does not accurately describe what the amendment would do. And he played down the idea that Democrats should be afraid to support the amendment, saying Republicans will attack them no matter how the question is framed.

Minister JaNaé Bates, spokesperson for the Yes 4 Minneapolis pro-amendment coalition, said she was frustrated by divisions among Democrats. Those who describe the proposal as police funding are using “fear-based rhetoric” and a “right-wing dog whistle” as a distraction, she said. Police will “most certainly” be part of the proposed new agency with professionals trained to handle situations for which armed officers are not suited, she said.

“The point is, Democrats and Progressives and Liberals at all levels want people to be safe and that’s what this charter change does,” Bates said.

Omar, who represents Minneapolis, maintains that there is “nothing radical” in the amendment. What is radical, she said in an opinion piece published in the Star Tribune, is the way opponents fought to keep him out of the ballot and, in his opinion, misrepresent what he will do.

The ballot question drew in a lot of money, with glossy mailings appearing across town and ads filling social media feeds shortly before early voting began in early September.

Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign raised over $ 1 million in cash and nearly $ 500,000 in in-kind donations from across the country, according to campaign fundraising reports filed in August. His money included $ 500,000 in seed money from the Open Society Policy Center, which has ties to billionaire George Soros.

The group stressed the need for change and sought to reassure voters that the new structure will make everyone safer. He also took issue with opponents’ suggestions that the crossing would mean the departure of Medaria Arradondo, the popular black leader of the city, although Arradondo said the passage would put any law enforcement official in a “totally unbearable position. “.

The much newer All of Mpls, which opposes the amendment, raised over $ 100,000 in its first few weeks, mostly locally. This has heightened uncertainty over how the proposed new department will operate, as the amendment leaves city council and the mayor to work out the details within a short period of time after the election.

University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs credited the “definancing” problem with helping Republicans hold their place in Minnesota’s legislative races in 2020 despite Joe Biden’s victory in all of France. State. He said it was clear to Democrats that “police funding” was working for Republicans back then – and could be effective again.

United States Representative Nicole Malliotakis of New York overturned a siege on Staten Island in 2020 by running against police funding. Moderate Democrat Eric Adams, former New York Police Department captain, won the New York mayor’s primary in July on a platform to reject calls from activists to define the police.

US Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, objected to the rhetoric of “definancing”, noting that the US bailout stimulus bill signed in March contains $ 350 billion to help support the police departments.

“If this thing passes, which a lot of people think and assume it will, there’s going to be a massive national backlash, not just in Minnesota,” said Republican strategist Billy Grant, whose clients include the Craig’s likely opponent, former Marine Tyler Kistner. .

“People are going to say they’ve shown they can do it. It’s going to have a domino effect.

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