Minneapolis releases multi-year plan to build out public safety programs that go beyond policing

12 July 2023

Bolstering violence prevention programs and expanding unarmed responses were among recommendations in a report announced by Minneapolis city leaders Tuesday described as a multi-year roadmap in their effort to build out the city’s public safety system to go beyond policing.

After conversations in 2020 about Minneapolis residents’ desire for public safety responses that don’t include police officers following George Floyd’s murder, the city contracted Antonio Oftelie, executive director of Leadership for a Networked World at Harvard University and monitor in Seattle’s federal consent decree process to reform their police department. Since 2021, Oftelie and a team of experts have been looking into how to accomplish that goal, through research and interviews with both city officials and Minneapolis community members. 

The project – announced during a Tuesday news conference attended by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, City Council President Andrea Jenkins and Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander, among others – was funded by $400,000 in grants from the Pohlad Family Foundation, Minneapolis Foundation, McKnight Foundation and Joyce Foundation.

The report describes a three-pillar plan: preventative services like violence prevention groups, responsive services that provide real-time assistance to people seeking emergency services and restorative services that heal trauma and find root causes of community safety challenges. MPD has been experiencing staffing challenges since 2020, coinciding with periodic spikes in crime and more calls for service and exacerbating criticism that some police duties like traffic and mental health calls don’t need an officer response.

The plan — called the “Safe and Thriving Communities” plan — comes as the city prepares to enter into a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice following the end of its two-year investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department that found MPD had practice racially discriminatory policing toward Black and Native American residents, and violated the constitutional rights of protesters and journalists in the days after Floyd’s murder. 

Frey said that while the consent decree will focus on policing itself, the plan laid out in the report will take on the rest of the city’s public safety apparatus.

MinnPost photo by Mohamed Ibrahim
Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander shown speaking at Tuesday’s news conference.

“We have a consent decree which is focused around police accountability — obviously there are facets that go beyond that, but that’s the primary focus,” he said. “This report is focused on safety beyond policing, and incorporating a broad approach that helps to lay out a roadmap for where we can go.”

Oftelie and city leaders pointed to the success of existing programs, like the city’s behavioral response team that responds to 911 calls regarding people experiencing mental crises, violence interrupter groups and shifting more traffic response away from police and toward civilian traffic agents. But a goal of the report, he said, is to determine which programs work, how they could be more effective and which programs the city lacks in an effort to establish those as well. 

“A critical first piece of work around this that we’ve been looking at is to say ‘Where are we doing well?’ because we already know we have some good work, and ‘Where can we improve some things?’ where we need to augment and develop some new services,” Oftelie said. “You’ll see that (the plan) is a bit more robust and rigorous of an approach going forward as the roadmap is built out than what is currently happening.”

The report recommends immediate actions including establishing an executive leadership team and community advisory board to decide which policies need to be created or changed to facilitate the plan. It also recommends the city create a yearslong implementation and financial plan, operations and governance plan, committees and work groups focused on each of the three pillars, and an online progress dashboard.

MinnPost photo by Mohamed Ibrahim
Antonio Oftelie: “You’ll see that (the plan) is a bit more robust and rigorous of an approach going forward as the roadmap is built out than what is currently happening.”

Frey acknowledged the city’s budget remains tight due to anticipated high costs related to enacting court-mandated changes from the Department of Justice and state Department of Human Rights. He said city officials will need to look for funding elsewhere and get creative within their own budget to fund funding to bring the plan to life. 

“We have received money from other jurisdictions at times, and we have a model that is going to be in place to receive additional money from other organizations, both governmental and not,” he said. “I also believe that these are directions that the city wants to go collectively and that people are willing to spend money on getting a comprehensive public safety system right.”

Oftelie will present the report to the city council’s Public Health and Safety Committee on Wednesday. 

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