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Opinion: Finger Pointing will ensue if "14 Boss" Plan for Police Passes

Submitted by Joe Tamburino

Dear Editor:

The Minneapolis City Council is about to decide whether to allow the city’s charter to be amended by ballot question in November to give the council shared power with the mayor over the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).  Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo strongly oppose this amendment and argue that the enforcement of laws must remain the prerogative of the mayor’s office - they are absolutely right.

The city’s charter, which has remained intact since 1920, is the foundational law of the city.  It directs the mayor (executive authority) to be responsible for the police and the council (legislative authority) to institute policy and legislation. The proposed charter amendment would drastically change these sound and well-established governing rules and permit the 13-member council to govern the MPD.  This would be a disaster.

One can imagine the finger pointing that would occur if the council obtained even partial control over the MPD.  For example, if something goes wrong and someone, a police officer or citizen, is harmed or injured, any council member can blame other council members, who can then blame the mayor, who can in turn blame the 13-member council.  No one is ultimately accountable. 

Interestingly, this imprudent proposed amendment, in its current form and wording, hangs by a thread.  Its passage appears to depend on one person - Council Member (CM) Steve Fletcher of the Third Ward, our council member for downtown.  Thankfully, CM Fletcher has publicly stated his position and opinion that all executive authority over the MPD must remain with the mayor. We should expect him to keep his word. 

It is concerning, however, that CM Fletcher has also supported language in the current proposal that gives the council the “authority to adopt policies, rules and regulations of the police department subject to the approval of the mayor as defined in section 4.4(c).”  Section 4.4(c) allows the council to override a mayor’s veto on any proposed law by a two-thirds vote. In other words, the council would still ultimately control all of the rules, policies, and regulations of the MPD. 

I have been practicing law for 29 years, have litigated thousands of matters in court, and have argued many cases in the appellate courts.  I can unequivocally state that CM Fletcher’s position that the mayor should have all executive power while the council would have all regulatory power over the MPD is what’s called a legal incongruity. It’s literally contradictory.

By definition, executive authority makes and enforces rules over a government agency.  The mayor cannot have executive authority over the MPD if the council dictates the MPD’s rules and regulations.  The council’s authority is, and should remain, limited to making ordinances for the city.  The rules and regulations by which the MPD operates must rest with the mayor if the mayor is to retain executive authority. 

CM Fletcher has already stated his position that the mayor must retain executive powers over the MPD.  We should hold him to his word and urge him to vote against this proposal without any further amendments or changes.

Joe Tamburino
Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association, Chair.
Neighborhood Alliance, Chair.
Hennepin Ave. Stakeholders Committee, member.
Hennepin Ave. Safety Committee, member.
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