Angie Craig called it "shortsighted and misguided" and warned it could harm the communities it is trying to protect.
Craig's district is a politically divided, suburban-to-rural area south of the city. However, Craig's willingness to get involved in the fight next door highlights how serious the political threat Democrats see in Craig's proposal.
The effort to reform police force is dividing Democrats along ideological lines. This is a city that has been synonymous with police abuse. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Olmar and Attorney General Keith Ellison, two of the state's most prominent progressives, support the plan. It would replace the police department by a Department of Public Safety. Other top Democrats include Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Tim Walz opposes it.
The debate is dominating the City Council and mayoral races. This first race since George Floyd was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, sparked a worldwide racial reckoning. The reform movement would see the passage of the amendment as a significant win, both in substance and symbolism. Many in the Democratic establishment think calls for "dismantle" and "defund" the police cost them their seats in Congress and statehouses last year. They are determined to prevent that from happening again next year. The Minneapolis measure defeat has been a high-profile, critical test.
"People are unanimously in favor of reforming the police if we speak about it. Colin Strother, a Texas-based Democratic strategist, said that if we use the term "defund", we lose the argument. "Democrats who continue to use 'defund police' are doing more harm than good for the cause and themselves," said Strother.
The ballot proposition asks voters if they would like to replace Minneapolis' Police Department with a Department of Public Safety. It does not use the word "defund" and critics claim that it was an attempt to hide the aims of a majority of City Council members.
Ellison, who is a strong supporter, stated in an interview that the amendment supporters want more tools to ensure public safety than a police-only model. They want more people with expertise in mental health and housing to help them deal with the situations that armed officers are currently facing.
He is wary of "defunding the police," which he described as "a cry to reform" from "young people who were absolutely disgusted by George Floyd's actions."
Ellison stated that he doesn't use it and called it "hot rhetoric", not a policy or program, which doesn't accurately reflect what the amendment would do. He also dismissed the notion that Democrats should be wary of supporting the amendment and said that Republicans would attack them regardless of how they are framed.
JaNae, a spokesperson for the pro-amendment Yes 4 Minneapolis alliance, stated that she is frustrated by the divisions between Democrats. She said that those who portray the proposal as defunding police use "fear-based rhetoric", and a "right wing dog whistle" to distract. She stated that the new agency will include professionals who are trained to deal with situations where armed officers may not be able to.
"The truth is that Democrats, progressives and liberals across the board want people safe, and that is why this charter change is necessary," Bates stated.
Omar, who is a Minneapolis representative, claims there's "nothing revolutionary" about the amendment. In an opinion piece in the Star Tribune she stated that what's "radical" is how opponents tried to block it from the ballot, and, in her opinion, misrepresent the effects of the amendment.
The ballot question has been attracting a lot of attention. There have been glossy mailers appearing all over the city, and advertisements filling social media channels since early September.
According to August campaign finance reports, the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign raised more than $1 million in cash as well as nearly $500,000 in in-kind donations. It received $500,000 in seed money through the Open Society Policy Center. This center has connections to billionaire George Soros.
This group stressed the need to change and reassured voters that the new structure would make everyone safer. The group also refuted suggestions that passage would lead to the departure Medaria Arradondo (the city's Black chief), even though Arradondo stated passage would place any law enforcement leader into a "wholly unmanageable position".
Newer All of Mpls, which opposed the amendment, raised over $100,000 in its first few week, mostly locally. The amendment makes it clear that the City Council and mayor will have to decide how the new department works.
Larry Jacobs, University of Minnesota political scientist, said that the "defund” issue helped Republicans to hold their ground in Minnesota's legislative elections in 2020 despite Joe Biden being elected statewide. He stated that it was clear to Democrats that "defunding police" was an effective strategy for Republicans back then, and could again.
U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York won a Staten Island seat by running against defunding. Eric Adams, a moderate Democrat and former captain of the New York Police Department, won New York's mayoral primaries in July with a platform rejecting calls for defunding police.
U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York is the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He has resisted the "defund” rhetoric by pointing out that the American Rescue Plan stimulus legislation signed in March includes $350 billion to support police department.
"If this thing passes, which many people believe and assume it will," stated Republican strategist Billy Grant. His clients include Craig's likely opponent, ex-Marine Tyler Kistner.
"People will say that they have shown they can do it." This will have a domino effect."