Local leaders uncertain about effort to increase police oversight

The proposed measure would amend the City’s charter, giving the City Council more control over police policy.

by Emma Dill

An amendment to give the Minneapolis City Council increased oversight over the Minneapolis Police Department has seen mixed reactions from local community leaders.

A City task force will meet on Dec. 3 to evaluate an effort to increase city council control over MPD policy. While the change may address recent safety concerns in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, community leaders are waiting for the task force’s results before supporting the proposal.

In Cedar-Riverside, public safety has become a top concern following fatal shootings in September and July. City officials said the proposed measure would give the City Council more say in policy decisions, potentially allowing members to advocate for constituent needs.

Ward 6 Council member Abdi Warsame said he believes the current policing system works. Recent violent crime incidents in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood have brought out concerns about public safety, prompting a group of Somali mothers to organize this fall.

“Our community has had some public safety issues this summer and they have been vocal to our office that they would like to see more patrols and more of a police presence,” Warsame’s policy aide Ryan SanCartier said.

While Warsame said he feels that policing changes are necessary, he said the charter amendment is not the only solution.

“There are so many pressures on us to make the changes, but I think we can make those changes with the ordinances and the power that we have,” Warsame said.

Warsame cited crime prevention, youth violence prevention and job training at the Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center as ways he has used his current power to promote public safety. In the future, Warsame said he would like to see increased training that would teach MPD officers how to de-escalate tense situations and bridge cultural divides when responding to incidents.

Ward 2 Council member Cam Gordon, who introduced the measure in August, said his 12 years on the City Council have demonstrated the need for more council control.

“A lot of times in the course of my time on the council, people have come and said, ‘We need to change this about the police and that about the police.’ It’s just hard as a council member to do that,” Gordon said.

MPD is the only department the City Council does not have policy control over. The council oversees the Minneapolis Fire Department and Public Works Department.

The measure is under review by a 15-member Police Department Charter Amendment Task Force. Their findings are due to the City Council no later than Jan. 2.

Gordon initially planned for the measure to be on the November ballot for Minneapolis voters, but it was delayed after the task force required more time to study the plan.

SanCartier said the charter amendment’s potential impact is still uncertain among council members.

“When they sent [the measure] to the charter commission it was still left very gray,” SanCartier said.

Still, the amendment prompts a needed public safety discussion in Cedar-Riverside and throughout the city, he said.

“It’s an important discussion and we’re having that discussion,” Warsame said. “Now, the main thing is just waiting for what the charter commission says.”