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Mayoral candidate Ray Dehn wants Minneapolis Police disarmed

Other candidates say city policing should be reformed, but none are going as far as Ray Dehn.

Other candidates say city policing should be reformed, but none are going as far as Ray Dehn. Star Tribune, Leila Navidi

The race for mayor of Minneapolis may turn on how candidates would solve a perceived crisis in city policing.

State Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Minneapolis) has the most radical idea out there: Take the guns out of cops' holsters, and replace them with something that wouldn't make every decision a life-or-death one.

Dehn proposed the idea of disarming the cops at a candidate debate focused on police reform, the Star Tribune reports, a topic moved to the front-burner since the killing of Justine Damond, a 40-year-old Australian woman who'd called 911, by city police officer Mohamed Noor. Damond's was the latest in a series of high-profile and questionable shootings.

"Officers don't need to carry a gun on their person all the time," Dehn said at Tuesday's forum, adding that other nonlethal or less-lethal devices could replace guns as cops' go-to holstered weapon.

Dehn's proposal got him called out by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who portrayed his position as naive, while also taking a swipe at candidate and Minneapolis City Councilmember Jacob Frey, whose campaign received a donation from the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. 

Hodges called Frey "the police union candidate, who will carry water for Bob Kroll," while saying Dehn wants to take guns from cops "in a nation that is tragically awash with guns."

Dehn (32 percent), Frey (28 percent), and Hodges (24 percent) finished 1-2-3 in balloting at this month's Minneapolis DFL convention, which ended with no endorsement.

Frey, Tom Hoch, and Nekima-Levy Pounds (who did not seek party endorsement) also stopped short of endorsing Dehn's position on disarming police. Frey and Hoch focused on improving city policy regarding body cameras—Noor's and his partner's were inactive at the time Damond was shot—while Levy-Pounds has called for reexaming "every layer of our system of government," which she says has "rubber-stamped and reinforced police culture."

Levy-Pounds also noted she'd been the first candidate to call for former chief Janee Harteau to resign.

Dehn concedes his idea is a difficult one with so many guns on the streets, and told Fox 9 he wants to meet with police officers to consider the options. 

He would not receive a welcome reception should he sit down with Kroll, the police union leader, who told Fox Dehn's idea is "an absurd thought," and one that would deter recruitment.

"Who would ever do the job of policing again?" Kroll asked.