The contentious campaign to give the Minneapolis City Council more control over the Police Department ended quietly Wednesday.
After weeks of council members hurrying the controversial amendment through the legislative process, the Minneapolis Charter Commission — a low-profile but crucial player in the process to change the city's constitution — voted to take the rest of the year to study the potential impact of the proposal and gather feedback from the public. That timeline far exceeds the county's quickly approaching deadline to put it on the 2018 ballot.
Some on the Charter Commission scolded the City Council for attempting to rush the amendment in order to meet the election deadline and passing the work of conducting proper research onto the commission.
"I think that it is just wholly inappropriate for us to spend time and effort, and extend this effort to staff members of the city," said Commissioner Todd Ferrara. "The City Council ought to do its job and have this research before us before we waste our time and involve the public in this discourse."
The campaign to cede some of the mayor's authority over police to the City Council began earlier this summer, after two white police officers fatally shot Thurman Blevins, a black man in north Minneapolis, and reinvigorated calls for change from civil rights activists.
Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo have both spoken publicly in opposition to the change, which they say would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy and make it harder for them to do their jobs. City Council members supporting the change say they don't want to take executive authority from the mayor, but they believe voters should decide if they deserve more power in creating rules and regulations for police.
Since June, it's been a contentious subject among council members on the dais and in private conversations. It's also elicited strong public reaction. Last week, dozens of activists stormed a City Council hearing, mostly in support of the proposal. They dominated the five-hour meeting and interrupted council members — even those who backed the charter change — with insults and protests over what they characterized as a lack of accountability over the Police Department.
The City Council narrowly sent the amendment to the charter commission last Friday, though some supporters acknowledged a grim outlook for getting the final language on the ballot by this year's deadline and said they would refocus the campaign on 2020.
Members of the Charter Commission confirmed Wednesday that they don't intend to move quickly enough to meet the election deadline this year.
"The mayor has been in charge of the Police Department for 98 years," said Barry Clegg, chairman of the commission. "To change it without doing any research or public input seems hasty to me."
City rules give the commission 150 days to send a recommendation back to the City Council on the proposal. The commission voted to appoint a task force that will hold three public hearings between now and January, beginning in September, to collect feedback from residents on the charter change.
The task force will conduct research on how other cities manage their police departments, the current leadership roles over police in City Hall and all laws or restrictions pertinent to the proposed charter amendment. It will also study what impact such a change could have on police officer morale.
The commission instructed the task force to report back periodically and to issue a final report at its first meeting in January 2019.
Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036