Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was the face of town by way of a few of its darkest days — the demise of George Floyd beneath an officer’s knee final 12 months and rioting that marred the following protests, together with the burning of a police precinct after Frey ordered officers to desert it.
Frey, a Democrat, is now in a troublesome struggle to maintain his job as town tries to rebuild since Floyd’s demise in Might 2020 sparked probably the most damaging unrest within the U.S. for the reason that Rodney King riots. Tuesday’s election will possible activate how voters view Frey’s efforts to discover a center highway in a metropolis sharply divided by questions on racism, policing and crime.
Frey has positioned himself as a defender of police and town’s widespread Black chief — and in opposition to probably the most liberal and vocal progressives looking for a symbolic victory in Floyd’s metropolis.
“There’s not a mayor within the nation that’s content material with the tempo of change, and depend me in on that vote,” Frey, 40, mentioned in an interview. “However now we have handed a litany of reforms and adjustments, greater than any mayor within the historical past of this metropolis.”
Throughout the worst of the unrest following the demise of Floyd, a Black man, beneath white Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee, conservatives accused Frey of failing to stem the riots or crack down on hovering crime and gun violence.
However he has additionally been pilloried by many on the left for not doing sufficient to overtake Minneapolis police. Most of his critical challengers in a 17-candidate subject are extra liberal than Frey in a metropolis that final elected a Republican mayor 64 years in the past. Some have made a mantra of the slogan “Do not Rank Frey” — a plea for voters to go away him off their poll within the metropolis’s ranked-choice voting system, thus rising the possibilities another person will win.
Frey’s destiny might be tied to a poll query that asks voters whether or not they wish to substitute the police division with a brand new Division of Public Security. The poll query would drop a requirement that town have a police division and a minimal variety of officers. Opponents have mentioned that might imply too few officers; supporters have dismissed that as fear-mongering.
The mayor opposes the poll query. He notes it does not embody a transparent plan for no matter would substitute it, and that it might shift sole oversight of police from the mayor’s workplace to a system that provides the 13-member Metropolis Council extra enter.
Two high challengers, Sheila Nezhad and Kate Knuth, each help changing the present division. Nezhad was a frontrunner of the marketing campaign behind the poll query. Knuth is a former state consultant and environmental justice activist.
Progressive teams have united across the two girls and the “Do not Rank Frey” technique, together with U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who represents the Minneapolis space in Congress. In an look with each candidates in mid-October, Omar blasted “4 years of failed management” within the metropolis, and Nezhad and Knuth sounded comparable notes.
“Our path ahead doesn’t require us to decide on amongst security, justice and police accountability,” Knuth mentioned.
Frey, a lawyer by coaching and a Virginia transplant, first gained a Metropolis Council seat in 2013. He ascended to the mayor’s workplace in 2017 by ousting incumbent Betsy Hodges in a race additionally roiled by police accountability points, together with the 2015 taking pictures of Jamar Clark, a Black man, in a wrestle with white officers and the 2017 taking pictures of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, a white girl, by a Black officer.
The divisions within the marketing campaign within the wake of Floyd’s demise do not break down cleanly alongside racial traces. Frey mentioned his strongest help comes from the Black and Somali communities, which have been hit laborious by crime and the place help for defunding police will not be common. He mentioned there is a “large disjoint” between what he is listening to from these communities in comparison with what white progressive activists are saying.
Frey mentioned he has made substantial progress in overhauling policing. As examples, the mayor mentioned police compliance with guidelines on utilizing physique cameras was simply 55% when he took workplace. Penalties that he and Medaria Arradondo, town’s first Black police chief, imposed after Floyd’s demise introduced it to 95%. The division banned “warrior-style” coaching. They overhauled use-of-force guidelines together with a ban on choke holds. They banned pretext stops for low-level offenses corresponding to air fresheners hanging from mirrors and expired license plate tabs.
Frey mentioned Minnesota regulation requires adjustments to do extra to carry dangerous cops accountable. He mentioned the division has terminated or disciplined extra officers in 2020 and 2021 than the earlier 4 years mixed: last disciplinary choices in 73 circumstances final 12 months and this 12 months, in comparison with 63 between 2015 and 2019. However Frey mentioned it is laborious to make these choices stick.
“Proper now when Chief Arradondo or I hearth or self-discipline an officer, 55% of the time that call is overturned by necessary arbitration, which is required beneath state regulation,” he mentioned. “Fifty % of the time they’re returned they usually return to violate belief with the neighborhood.”
Frey mentioned he desires to proceed engaged on public security and police accountability in a second time period, and on a “sturdy and inclusive restoration” from each the pandemic and final 12 months’s destruction. He’d additionally wish to revisit inexpensive housing, a difficulty the place he had some early successes.
“For all these points, public security, police accountability, inexpensive housing, financial inclusion and restoration, there aren’t any magic wand fixes,” he mentioned. “There aren’t any hashtags that result in utopia. You gotta do the work.”
Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council and a former Metropolis Council member, mentioned Frey has staked out a powerful place of desirous to work with Arradondo to reform the police division as it’s.
“I believe that stance is widespread with a giant chunk of voters within the metropolis, together with many within the African American neighborhood, however there’s additionally a cohort of younger individuals who do not see it that manner,” Cramer mentioned.