Minneapolis Dodges Police Ban on the Ballot for Now

Good news for Minneapolis residents like Peter Hayes, whose first-hand account of trying to keep his family safe with “bullets flying” around his neighborhood recently made the pages of the Star Tribune.

I never dreamed I would acquire such a unique new skill — being able to differentiate between fireworks and gunfire. But nearly every night for the past several weeks both sounds have cracked through the air in my neighborhood. I relax now when I hear the former.

On the night of July 15 I was at the back door when I heard shots closer than they had ever been, eight or nine of them in rapid succession, then a pause, then additional rounds. It took a few moments to recognize the loudest cracks for what they were. One bullet pierced a neighbor’s car, a second struck our wooden fence, and a third zipped through a second-floor screen, skidded along some interior woodwork, entered and exited a wall and finally lodged in another.

Sanity prevailed–barely–as the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted 8-6 against allowing a proposal to eliminate the requirement for maintaining a police force based on the city’s population to go before voters in November. But it was as close of a call as the stray bullets whizzing through Peter Hayes’ window, according to the Strib.

Commissioner Dan Cohen, a former City Council member and one of the commission’s most vocal supporters of police, said he feared that if either measure passed, “crime would soar, property values on our homes would fall” and residents “would flee the city.”

“I believe that if one of these measures were to pass the voters of Minneapolis, the result would be a giant self-inflicted wound,” he said.

But there’s still another potentially self-inflicted wound to duck in the form of a second radical anti-police proposal coming before the panel next week.

The more closely watched vote will come next week, when the commission decides on an amendment written by five City Council members.

That proposal would eliminate the requirement to keep a police department. In its place, the city would have a broader community safety department that might or might not include officers.

The commission could offer a recommendation on that amendment — which the council could ignore — or it could take more time to review it, thereby missing the deadline to get on this year’s ballot.

Either way, residents like Peter Hayes don’t have the luxury of waiting around for city leaders to do job one–secure public safety. They’re flat out desperate.

One difficulty is that such reimagining of the police will take time — years and at least one generation of newly trained officers. But we need protection now, even if we have to move city money around quickly, even if the results are imperfect.