The measure was seen by some as the radical change necessary in the city where George Floyd was killed by a police officer in 2020, sparking a wave of violent riots and peaceful protests nationwide.
The ballot measure would have revised the city charter to remove language requiring the existence of a police department staffed by a minimum number of police officers. Opponents said the proposal featured no plan of action and would impact crime-stricken communities at a time when crime is on the rise.
The ballot proposal had roots in the abolish-the-police movement. The ballot question called for a new Department of Public Safety to take “a comprehensive public health approach to the delivery of functions” that would be determined by the mayor and City Council. The proposed department “could include” police officers “if necessary, to fulfill its responsibilities for public safety.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Democrat Attorney General Keith Ellison both supported replacing the police department. But Democrat Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) opposed it, fearing that the fallout would result in Democratic losses in 2022.
Rishi Khanna, 31, a tech worker, voted yes on replacing the police department. He said he thinks having professionals equipped to deal with a range of public safety issues in the same department as law enforcement will benefit both residents and police officers.
“I understand that law enforcement will have to have a seat at the table, but I think both in our community and in communities around the country, too often law enforcement is the only seat at the table,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the right solution.”
Askari Lyons, 61, voted against the ballot initiative. He is a resident of the city’s largely black north side, where violent crime runs higher than in the rest of the city.
Lyons called it “unwise” to replace the department and said he believes change within the department is imminent.
“People are so frustrated, so angry, so disappointed” with the violence occurring citywide as much as they are with the city’s law enforcement, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.