MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo urged voters to reject a ballot question that would replace the city's police department, saying it would do nothing to address the issues laid bare with the death last year of George Floyd.
Voters will decide Tuesday whether to approve a new public safety unit that would take “a more comprehensive public health approach” to policing. The ballot question would also drop a required minimum number of police officers and give City Council members more oversight of police.
Opponents have said the proposal is vague, with no specific plan for the replacement, and Arradondo took up the theme in his remarks Wednesday.
“To vote on a measure of reimagining public safety without a solid plan and an implementation or direction of work — this is too critical of a time to wish and hope for that help that we need so desperately right now,” he told reporters. “I was not expecting some sort of robust, detailed word-for-word plan, but at this point, quite frankly, I would take a drawing on a napkin and I have not seen either.”
Arradondo, usually a reserved and deferential chief, was animated and smacked the lectern at one point in his remarks. He described the city as “flatlining," citing the department's deficit of nearly 300 officers, or about one-third of its authorized 888 sworn officers — with much of the attrition due to retirements, resignations and disability leaves for post-traumatic stress disorder following the unrest after Floyd’s death.
He said he wasn't sure what the ballot question would do, but he said he was sure it would not stop police having dangerous interactions with citizens, would not help recruiting and retention and wouldn't suddenly change a police culture that critics say is brutal. He also expressed concern about language in the ballot question that describes the new department as including police officers “if necessary.”
The chief, along with Mayor Jacob Frey, have touted several policy changes during their tenure in an effort to reform the department, which include increasing body camera compliance among officers, and bans on “warrior-style” training, choke holds and pretextual stops for low-level offenses.
Arradondo's stance drew criticism from Yes 4 Minneapolis, the political committee that crafted the proposal.
“Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo campaigning in uniform, in explicit contradiction of the policy he himself wrote last year, is one of many examples revealed in his press conference today, why structural change is imperative to keep the people of Minneapolis safe and to implement an accountable and transparent relationship with those who are called to protect and serve,” said Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign manager Corenia Smith.
Arradondo first broke his silence on the ballot question in late August when he said giving City Council members more authority over the department would bury it under layers of bureaucracy and put the department’s new leader in an “wholly unbearable position." He renewed that criticism Wednesday, saying, “I will tell you to have 14 bosses, that is not a business model we would give to children running a lemonade stand."
Opponents have warned that Arradondo, the city's popular Black chief, could leave if the ballot question passes. Arradondo sidestepped questions about that on Wednesday, saying he hasn't had conversations with his family or Frey about his future.
Mohamed Ibrahim is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Mohamed Ibrahim, The Associated Press