Minneapolis voters soundly rejected a proposal Tuesday night that would have opened the door to reducing the city’s police force, more than a year after the death of George Floyd ignited calls to “defund the police.”
In a blow to that movement, support for the measure in one of the most liberal cities in the nation was hovering only at 43%, far short of the 51% it needed to pass.
Mr. Floyd’s killing by a police officer had prompted a call by activists to reimagine policing in the city. Question Two would have replaced the city’s police department with a Department of Public Safety that would have taken a new approach to law enforcement by including alternatives to traditional officers such as mental health counselors.
The measure did not specifically require the number of officers to be cut, but it would have removed a decades-old requirement for there to be a minimum number of officers on the police force.
However, a recent poll by multiple news outlets, including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, found that while 49% of voters supported the measure, it was backed mainly by White voters, who supported the idea 51% to 40%. Only 42% of Black voters supported the idea, while 47% were opposed.
Among Black respondents, 75% opposed the possibility of reducing the police force.
Experts saw the poll’s results as a sign of the complicated relationship the Black community has with police, who have been accused of racism but also provide protection from crime, which disproportionately victimizes minorities.
“The slogan and the rhetoric were rejected in favor of working together for real change,” said Sharon Sayles Belton, who was elected as Minneapolis’ first Black and first female mayor in 1993.
“I think that the citizens affirmed the need for a concrete public safety plan for the city of Minneapolis. They voted to send a clear message to the City Council that any public safety plan must include police officers dedicated to serve and protect all the citizens of our community.”
Despite the loss, supporters of the measure said Tuesday night that they had forced a discussion around policing.
“We changed the conversation about what public safety should look like,” Yes on Question Two said on Twitter. “We showed the country and the world the power of democracy and of the people. Now, we will work to hold the system accountable. We will work to heal our city and create safer streets for all our communities.”