Police charter amendment taken off fast track

A proposal to give the City Council more direct authority over police likely won’t go up for a vote this fall.

Any chance that a question would appear on the ballot in November seemed to be closed off by the Charter Commission, whose members decided in August to schedule a series of at least three public hearings on the matter. The first hearing was scheduled to take place at City Hall on Sept. 5, nearly two weeks beyond the Aug. 24 deadline to forward a 2018 ballot question to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.

Introduced in late June by Ward 2 City Council Member Cam Gordon, the amendment would strike language from the city charter that gives the mayor “complete” power over police. It would also clarify that the City Council “may make rules and regulations” for police, subject to the mayor’s veto.

Gordon described the current arrangement as “outdated” and said it was time to give the City Council the same oversight and policy-making role with police as it has with other city departments. Both Mayor Jacob Frey and police Chief Medaria Arradondo were on record opposing the amendment.

The next chance to place a charter amendment question on the ballot comes in 2020.

In addition to scheduling public hearings, the Charter Commission plans to organize a taskforce to review some of the key questions raised by Gordon’s proposal, including whether and how other similar-sized cities share authority over police between the mayor and council. A final report from the taskforce is due to the Charter Commission by Jan. 2.

The City Council is also doing its own research and plans to share its findings with the commission. Council members in August directed City Attorney Susan Segal to examine the current roles of the council and mayor with regards to the police department, as well as the potential effects of Gordon’s charter amendment, and report back by Sept. 28.