Nov 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Police union: "Draconian" reforms unlikely after Minneapolis vote

Members of the Minneapolis Police Department seen through a chain link gate on June 13, 2020 in Minneapolis.

Members of the Minneapolis Police Department seen through a chain link gate. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Cities and states are unlikely to see many new "defund the police" proposals after Minneapolis voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure to overhaul the city's police department, one of the nation's largest police unions tells Axios.

What they're saying: "I believe, by and large, that ship has sailed," said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, a national police organization that represents 356,000 officers.

The big picture: The rejection of the massive change in the city where George Floyd was murdered by a police officer came as Republicans made gains and amid rising violent crime in major cities.

  • The election results may signal shifting sentiments about how dramatically to reform policing, a year and a half after street demonstrators demanded the end to systemic racism in policing, media and politics.

Driving the news: Returns Tuesday night showed the citywide ballot measure failed by a double-digit margin, 56% to 43%, as reform advocates around the country closely watched the outcomes.

  • Some advocates felt had voters approved of replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a new agency it could spark a movement in other cities.
  • But the ballot measure's failure dealt a significant blow to supporters of more progressive police reforms just as proposed federal legislation stalled over partisan bickering.

What they're saying: "I'm not aware of anything as draconian as was proposed in Minneapolis," Pasco said.

  • He said while he expects other calls for dismantling police will be isolated cases, the FOP will continue to monitor police reform proposals in states and will support some if parties engage with officers.
  • "There's still plenty of room within the four walls of what is acceptable to all to make meaningful changes that will benefit all parties," he said.

The other side: Advocates for changing funding structures of law enforcement say they are undeterred and will continue to press for systemic changes.

  • "Dismantling and abolishing violent institutions and building and resourcing community safety strategies is and continues to be the goal," Black Visions, a Minnesota-based Black LGBTQ group, said in a statement after the ballot measure failed.
  • TakeAction Minnesota, which also supported the measure, said their fight was bigger than just one election.
  • Kandace Montgomery, a director at Black Visions, said advocates are working on proposals in Seattle, Portland and Austin, Texas and won't let the Minneapolis results stop them.

The intrigue: Rev. Markel Hutchins, CEO of MovementForward and Atlanta-based minister, told Axios he hopes the election results force progressives to rejoin bipartisan talks in the U.S. Senate over police reforms.

  • "The Republicans could take the (U.S.) House and then, we'll have no chance at passing any police legislation," he said.
  • Hutchins said the election of Eric Adams, a former Black police captain, as mayor in New York City, also showed Black and Latino residents are concerned about violent crime as they are about transforming policing.
  • "But they don't want that to be radical reform that's going to undermine the interests of public safety."
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