No, Minneapolis Has Not ‘Defunded the Police’

A tweet and headline from the New York Post oversimplify the actions that the Minneapolis City Council has taken.

In response to this fact check, the New York Post has updated its headline and social media posts where possible to contain more accurate language.

A viral tweet from the New York Post claims that the Minneapolis City Council is “alarmed by crime surge after defunding police.” The tweet links to an article with a headline that says the same, and which went viral on Facebook. 

In June, the council infamously voted to dismantle the police department. The vote, however, was just the first step in the process of actually doing so: The Minneapolis charter requires a police department and the city council cannot unilaterally alter the city charter. There are two ways the city charter can be amended. One avenue is amendment by ordinance, which requires the council to unanimously approve a proposal. In such a case, the proposal would then advance for review by the Minneapolis Charter Commission, a state agency that oversees the city’s charter. The commission has the authority to alter the proposal before sending it back to the council, and even still the mayor would have to approve of the proposal as well. 

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has stated he does not support abolishing the police department, so the city council’s proposal sought to amend the city charter through a second method: putting it on the ballot. This course of action requires either mayoral approval or a veto-proof majority on the city council (which the advocates for defunding have), but still requires review by the Minneapolis Charter Commission. In August, the commission voted to take an extra 90 days to review the proposal, meaning the proposal will miss the deadline to appear on the ballot in November. In the meantime, the city’s charter remains the same.

The secondary claim of the article and its headline, that crime has increased in Minneapolis this year, is accurate: Data from the Minneapolis Police Department show 552 violent crimes in the past 30 days, compared to 466 during the same period in 2019. Year-to-date totals for violent crimes in 2020 are higher than at the same point in 2019 (3,773 to 3,176 respectively).

The article was originally published by Fox News, and the body of the article contains more nuance than the Post headline, noting that the city council “took several steps toward dismantling the city's police department.” The article’s title on Fox News also reads: “Minneapolis City Council alarmed by surge in crime months after voting to defund the police.” However, the article does not provide details about the charter-amendment process, and “defund” has become such an ambiguous term that, especially with the New York Post headline, many social media users were left confused or with an incorrect impression about the current status of the police department.

The police department in Minneapolis still exists, and will continue to do so unless the Minneapolis Charter Commission and voting public of Minneapolis approve the city council’s proposal. 

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Photograph by Ira L. Black/Corbis/Getty Images.