Radical-left activists in Minneapolis have once again been stymied by the city’s Charter Commission in their efforts to defund the police department. Last week, the commission voted to reject a proposal that would have eviscerated police department funding. And yesterday, the Charter Commission voted 8-6 to continue studying radical proposals to “reform” the department.
Since the proposals would force changes in the city charter, it was up to the Charter Commission to approve them and clear them for the November ballot. But several commissioners believe the entire reform process should be slowed down and more care taken in drawing up changes to the charter.
Members of the Charter Commission expressed concern that the process to change the city’s charter was being rushed after Floyd died following an encounter with police. While several commissioners said changing the Police Department was necessary, they said the amendment before them was flawed. Several said it faced legal barriers, was created without input from key community members who oppose it, and that it gave too much power to the City Council.
“It’s appropriate to explore transformational changes in the department, but it needs to be done thoughtfully,” said Commissioner Peter Ginder, who voted in favor of taking more time. “That hasn’t been done here.”
Radicals don’t do “thoughtful,” so it’s not surprising the amendment was sloppily drawn. But what’s surprising is that some people in authority in Minneapolis are actually showing some backbone and resisting the mob.
The proposed amendment followed widespread criticism of law enforcement over Floyd’s death. It would have replaced the Police Department with a “Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention” that backers said would take a more “holistic” approach, which wasn’t fully defined. The proposal did allow for armed officers — creating a division of licensed peace officers, who would have answered to the new department’s director.
“The council says ‘Trust us. We’ll figure it out after this is approved. Trust us.’ Well I don’t, and we shouldn’t,” said Barry Clegg, chairman of the Charter Commission. “Charter change is too important.”
The mob is already screaming about democracy being “denied.” That’s nonsense, said one commissioner.
“There is no democracy denied here. There is no denial of democratic rights. It’s a question of when, not if,” Commissioner Gregory Abbott said. “We can fix this. We can get police reform. We just need to find a different avenue to do it in.”
Well, that’s not good enough. Democracy delayed is democracy denied…or something. The radicals had the advantage of panicking everyone so they could thoughtlessly ram through changes that would have made Minneapolis virtually unlivable. A few more moderate heads didn’t thwart them, but rather delayed their actions so that more stakeholders could be heard.
And that’s what these radicals apparently don’t understand. There are competing interests here and genuine disagreement. What “the people” want can be interpreted in a variety of ways — not just one.
Mel Reeves, a longtime community activist, said he was not surprised by the commission’s decision. He saw it as a delay tactic.
“We talk about living in a democracy, but if you really want to be democratic, sometimes it’s damn near impossible. If people really want to do something, there are all kinds of mechanisms to keep them from doing it,” he said.
“Democracy” is also balancing people’s competing interests. There is a strong political minority in Minneapolis that disagrees with defunding the police and radically altering the police department. Do you just shut them up and tell them to sit down and behave? That’s not democracy. It’s tyranny.
The Charter Commission has delayed the issue for 90 days and, hopefully, less-radical voices will come to the forefront and make a more intelligent proposal for police reform. But the radicals are in the driver’s seat and don’t appear willing to compromise an inch.