The Minnesota Supreme Courtroom permits the Minneapolis Police Division to be voted NPR

Alondra Cano, Alondra Cano, speaks on the Minneapolis Police Department’s debt relief in June 2020. Jerry Holt / Star Tribune via AP hide caption

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Jerry Holt / Star Tribune via AP

Alondra Cano, Alondra Cano, speaks on the Minneapolis Police Department’s debt relief in June 2020.

Jerry Holt / Star Tribune via AP

MINNEAPOLIS – The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday evening cleared the path for Minneapolis voters to decide the future of policing in the city where George Floyd was killed, just before the early and absentee ballot.

The state’s highest court overturned a lower court ruling that disapproved of the city council’s electoral language. A district judge said the wording did not adequately describe the ramifications of a proposed amendment to the statutes to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety department that could “lock in” police officers “if necessary”.

Derek Chauvin returns to court for allegedly holding a black teenager by the throat

Derek Chauvin returns to court for allegedly holding a black teenager by the throat

But Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said in a tripartite order that the judges concluded that the election language contestation did not meet the “high standards” set by the court in previous cases. She said the court would publish a full opinion with its legal reasons at some point later so as not to obstruct the start of the voting.

The Supreme Court has been under pressure to act quickly as the Minneapolis local elections open at 8:00 a.m. on Friday. The ballots were already printed when Hennepin County District Judge Jamie Anderson ruled against the language on Tuesday. It was the second time that she had deleted the Council text. Chief Justice Lorie Gildea put the case in the fast lane on Wednesday.

Lawyers on both sides said ahead of time that given the late hour, they expected the Supreme Court ruling that the electoral language will be the final word. Change leaders of the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign pushed ahead with a rally scheduled for Friday afternoon.

The proposal has its roots in the Defund the Police movement, which gained momentum after Floyd’s death last summer, sparking protests, civil unrest and a national settlement of racial justice. The term “Defund” is not used in the amendment. But it would remove the city charter requirement that Minneapolis have a law enforcement agency with a minimum number of staff. Many details of how the new agency would work would later be decided by the city council and mayor.

Yes 4 Minneapolis, which led the initiative, insists that the city would continue to have police force if voters approved the change, but that the new department would be free to adopt a new approach to public safety that counteracts excessive policing Could reduce color communities.

Opponents of the change, including former councilor Don Samuels and his wife Sondra, said the electoral language left too many important questions open to voters about how the new department would be implemented, managed, staffed and funded.

Yes 4 Minneapolis argued in its filing with the Supreme Court that the Minneapolis police would not automatically disappear if the change were accepted. The group said the department would continue under current city ordinances until the city council passed new laws establishing the new agency, and that the council could keep the force in place for as long as necessary for an orderly transition.

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