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Given a chance to restart policing, Minneapolis picks what it knows

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Given a chance to restart policing, Minneapolis picks what it knows

MINNEAPOLIS – Following the killing of George Floyd last year by a Minneapolis police officer, protesters marched across the country demanding sweeping changes in law enforcement. But Tuesday offered a chance to dismantle their city’s troubled police department and replace it with something new, Minneapolis voters said no.

Results in Minneapolis, a highly democratic city, as well as a return to local running from Long Island to Seattle, suggested that voters saw an enduring need for policing, even though they supported some incremental changes. In an election season that played out amid a national increase in homicides, Americans across racial and geographic lines rejected the most far-reaching calls to reinvigorate law enforcement and, in many cases, elected candidates to replace the current police structure. supported.

“I’d like to see some change,” said Deborah Diggins, 60, a social worker in Minneapolis who said she supported mental health workers answering more emergency calls. Don’t want to be seen doing – not in any form or fashion. We need policemen.”

In Seattle, where most of the city council supported cutting the police budget in half, Bruce Harrell, a candidate who favored adding police officers, was ahead in the city’s mayoral race and the vote was still underway. . In New York City, Eric Adams, a former police captain who won the Democratic primary earlier this year, dismissed the movement to defend the police and stressed the role of police in public safety, running for election. And in Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey, who oversaw the city when Mr Floyd was killed and was harassed by protesters after calls to dismantle the police department, decisively won a second term. Instead of the police department, some of his opponents fled.

“All the work around security and accountability is complicated – none of which you can fix with a hashtag or a slogan,” said Mr Frey, who pledged to improve the current police department during his victory speech on Wednesday. took.

Republican candidates clearly running on “back the blue” platforms won or were leading in some closely contested races, including county executive and prosecutor positions on New York’s politically diverse Long Island. But in many cities there is a debate about how far to go in redefining the policing system, largely between different factions of Democrats.

In Atlanta, where the killings are taking place, policing defined much of this year’s mayoral election. Officers were still tallying votes on Wednesday, but Felicia Moore, who named the top vote-getter in the early election, has promised to hire more police officers while making the department more transparent and accountable. In Buffalo, Mayor Byron W. Brown, a moderate Democrat, appeared on track to win another term after running a write-in campaign against India Walton, a democratic socialist, over which he called for plans to cut police jobs. was accused of.

Even as more moderate candidates prevailed, voters in many places expressed their continued concern about police conduct and the need for greater accountability. For example, in Cleveland, residents voted to expand civilian oversight of the police and chose Justin Bibb, a mayoral candidate who positioned himself as a progressive committed to reforming law enforcement. In Austin, Texas, voters rejected a ballot measure that would require the city to appoint hundreds more officers, despite a campaign by supporters that emphasized a sharp rise in killings.

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“I really thought people would buy into the scare-mongering coming from the other side,” said Chas Moore, executive director of the Austin Justice Coalition.

But the results in Minneapolis, where a proposed amendment would have replaced the police department with a new agency focused on public health, showed how strongly held the views that the police need to be changed, in the face of rising gun violence and murders. Struggled with concerns about The proposed security agency in Minneapolis would almost certainly still have employed police officers, but the measure would have overhauled the existing system and eliminated minimum staffing requirements.

“The undeniable factor in that victory in Minneapolis — and I think it shows in nationwide elections at every level — is the growing concern on the part of voters over the rising violent crime rate in the United States,” Jim Pascoe said. Executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, a law enforcement association. “I believe that, in the context of these draconian proposals to reduce or even eliminate police departments in this so-called rescue effort, that ship is sailed.”

FBI statistics showed the sharpest year-on-year increase on record from 2019 to 2020, although homicides remained below levels seen in the 1990s and major crimes declined by about 5 percent last year.

Supporters of the Minneapolis Amendment say they are disappointed, but their campaign has succeeded in changing the debate around policing, perhaps in a sustainable way. That a large US city held an election to get rid of its police department, and more than 40 percent of voters supported it, he said, shows that discourse had changed from a few years ago, when there were very narrow changes. How widespread it had become, such as the need for body cameras or the tightening of policies for the use of force, was hotly debated.

“We’re working and people aren’t ready yet,” said Rashad Robinson of the Color of Change PAC, which supported the Minneapolis Amendment. “I basically believe we are on the right track. We wouldn’t have even been part of the conversation a few years ago.”

After Mr Floyd’s killing last year, “Defiance of the Police” became a progressive slogan as protests spread. Several budgets of police departments were cut across the country. The Minneapolis City Council’s veto-proof majority vowed to eliminate the police force, though some soon backtracked.

The conversation has shifted again, with homicides nationally and homicides in Minneapolis reaching levels not seen since the 1990s. “Defiance of the Police” has become a powerful Republican line of attack, and a slogan that the most liberal Democrats all now avoid. Some cities that cut police budgets last year have now restored funding.

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The current system has undergone some permanent changes, many with widespread political support. Several cities, including Minneapolis, have put more money into mental health services and sending social workers to emergency calls. In some places the authorities are no longer dragging people for some petty offences. And Minneapolis remains a place where liberal policies have found support: Even as voters chose not to get rid of their police department, they approved an amendment that would allow rent controls. .

In Seattle, another liberal city that saw large, sometimes devastating protests in 2020, the Republican nominee for city attorney, Ann Davison, was leading in the vote over an opponent who posted messages about her hatred of police. and demanded the abolition of criminal justice. exists as a system.

In the race for mayor, Mr Harrell, a Democrat who has criticized and leading the defense effort, said on Wednesday that voters want reforms in policing but also want a police force that can respond to crimes quickly and be able to check thoroughly. His push for more officers, he said, had clearly resonated.

“I think it was a major issue, probably a determining factor,” Mr Harrell said.

Still, Mr. Harrell said he was committed to changing the policing system. He said he would, for example, have every sworn officer watch the video of Mr Floyd’s murder and sign a letter saying the inhumane treatment of people in Seattle would not be tolerated.

In Minneapolis, the city where the Defend movement gained national prominence after the killing of Mr Floyd and where many people still speak with disgust about how their neighborhoods are patrolled, residents said they took the election results to their daily concerns. seen as a reflection of The language of the ballot contained some specifics about the proposed public security agency, and residents said getting rid of the police department without a clear choice was a risk they cannot take at a time when killings have risen.

“For black residents of Minneapolis, this is not about politics,” said Nekima Levi Armstrong, a civil rights attorney who has long opposed police violence but who opposed the amendment to replace the department. “It’s about our day-to-day realities that often feel vulnerable to what unfolds. Hearing stories of children being shot and killed, and meeting the families of those children.”

Reporting was contributed by Jay Center in Minneapolis, Jesse McKinley in Buffalo and mike baker in Seattle. Richard Fawcett, Shaila Dewan And Luis Ferre-Southern Also contributed reporting.

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