June 27 (UPI) -- The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously Friday to approve an ordinance that, if approved by voters, would remove the requirement for a police department from the city charter.
The ordinance creates a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, which could include "licensed peace officers," but would not be required to do so.
The current city charter requires the city to have a police department and fund a force of at least .0017 employees per resident.
Changing it would require a citywide vote, and council members are using an expedited process to get their proposed measure on the November ballot.
"We have committed to a community engagement process which is only just beginning. This vote, if it's on the ballot in November, as I hope it is, gives the voters a chance to check in in the middle of that engagement process to tell us we are on the right track. I believe that's the right thing for us to do, put it to the voters of Minneapolis to make this change," council member Steve Fletcher said.
Three weeks ago a majority of council members pledged to begin defunding the city's police department in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis officers.
Council member Cam Gordon said Friday's vote was consistent with the previous promise.
"Those things that we called the police department are gone," Gordon said. "Certainly, there is a provision in here that would allow this council or future councils to maintain a Division of Law Enforcement Services, but I think what we need to do is have that possibility there and talk to people about what the future should look like."
Council member Andrea Jenkins expressed some hesitation.
"We can change the name of the public safety -- you know, the makeup -- but until we really address racism, nothing is going to change," Jenkins told WCCO.
The new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention would be nominated by the mayor and approved by the city council, and would have "non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches," according to a press release from the city council.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said he still has questions about the future of the police department.
"We need precision, and the precision of the solutions must match the precision of the harm that was initially inflicted," Frey said.
Frey also said he is "standing by" the current chief, Medaria Arradondo.
"To the extent this demotes him, relieves him of power, makes it more difficult for him, because he has to report to 14 people, a structural change made without community engagement, I think that's all a problem," Frey said.