Minnesota Supreme Court Rules Minneapolis Voters May Decide to Scrap Police Department

A Protester hold a sign reading "Defund the Police" outside Hennepin County Government Plaza during a demonstration against police brutality and racism on August 24, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. - It was the second day of demonstrations in Kenosha after video circulated Sunday showing the shooting of Jacob Blake -- multiple …
KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images

Voters in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd died in police custody, sparking months of destructive protests, will now be able to vote in the upcoming municipal elections on abolishing the police department, the Minnesota Supreme Court said in a reversal of a lower court ruling.

The decision concluded:

The decision of the district court filed on September 14, 2021, granting the petition of respondents’ Don Samuels et al., to correct the ballot, requiring local election officials to provide notice instructing voters not to vote on the ballot question, and enjoining local election officials from tallying, counting or in any way considering votes cast on the ballot question, is reversed.

CNN reported on the ruling:

The measure, if approved, would amend the city charter to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety. The DPS would employ a “comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions” of public safety, according to the amendment, and “could include licensed peace officers (police officers), if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities.” Essentially, the measure would also remove the police chief and the mayor’s power over the agency, and would be led by a commissioner appointed by the city council.

There was an urgency to the appeal filed to the Minnesota Supreme Court as early voting on the Minneapolis municipal elections — set for November 2 — begins Friday. In the order signed by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, it noted that the challenge to the ballot measure “does not meet the high standard” set in a previous ruling.

As a result, it ruled that the decision by the district court requiring local election officials to “provide notice instructing voters not to vote on the ballot question, and enjoining local election officials from tallying, counting or in any way considering votes cast on the ballot question is reversed.”

“So as not to impair the orderly process of voting, this order is issued with an opinion to follow on a later date,” the ruling said.

“The ballot measure — which was proposed by an advocacy group called Yes 4 Minneapolis and approved by the city council on September 7 — comes more than a year after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, a black man, in May 2020,” CNN reported.

The case is Samuel vs. City of Minneapolis, A21-1169 A21-1170, in the State of Minnesota Supreme Court.

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