Mayor announces police chief finalists, UMN plans further partnership with MPD

Mayor Jacob Frey announced three finalists for police chief to replace interim police chief Amelia Huffman after nine months.

by Alex Steil

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced on Sept. 7 the three finalists for Minneapolis Police Chief, a position currently held by interim Chief of Police Amelia Huffman.

A national search for applicants began in March and ended with three finalists, Elvin Barren, Dr. RaShall Brackney and Brian O’Hara. Before the decision is finalized this fall, Frey will interview the finalists, receive background checks from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and submit his recommendations before sending his final nomination to the City Council for approval.

The news comes after the University of Minnesota announced in August a phased partnership with the Minneapolis Police department for large events, like sporting and other specialized events.

Comparing the finalists

Each of the three final candidates has at least 15 years of law enforcement experience and would be coming in from out of the state.

The only active officer of the three finalists, Barren, is the Chief of Police for Southfield, MI. Brackney is a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Practice at George Mason University and was previously the campus police chief for George Washington University. O’Hara is currently Newark, N.J.’s deputy mayor but has experience in local and state policing.

The candidates were chosen after a lengthy city review. In the spring, the city hired
Public Sector Search & Consulting, a search firm that specializes in police recruiting, to find candidates they deemed qualified for the position for the search committee to consider.

The search committee selected the three finalists after the search firm narrowed down a 50-person candidate pool to 19 and consulted with internal stakeholders, such as city staff and community organizers.

“They’re all good candidates. That’s why they rise to the top,” City Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw, who was on the search committee, said. “I got to meet all three of the candidates in person. It’s good for our city that we have three really good choices for the finalists.”

The Minneapolis Police Department deferred all questions about a potential nominee to the mayor’s office, as they did not have any part in the search process.

“The mayor is looking for someone who is reform-minded, someone who will strengthen community trust in the MPD and someone who reflects the values of the city,” Katie Lauer, communications director for the mayor, said in an email to the Minnesota Daily.

UMPD’s partnership with MPD and student perspectives

The incoming chief will come into their position as the city faces an increase in violent crime: Hennepin County experienced on average a 20.3% increase in violent crime in 2021 between four metrics of violent crime, according to the Bureau of Crime Apprehension’s Uniform Crime Report.

In response to parent and student concerns regarding public safety on campus, the University announced in August a phased partnership with MPD for large and specialized events, such as Gopher sports games.

The University previously announced in May 2020 after former MPD officer Derek Chavin killed George Floyd that it would limit its involvement with MPD in instances when additional officer numbers and special services for events are needed.

“With its public safety responsibilities in the neighborhoods near our campus, the Minneapolis Police Department plays an essential role in keeping members of our community safe,” Jake Ricker, the University’s public relations director, said in an email to the Minnesota Daily. “We look forward to meeting and working closely with the new Police Chief once that person is hired.”

Following a tense year of certain Board of Regent decisions being made without student input, such as changes to campus safety policies or President Joan Gabel’s salary raise, some students feel there should have been more opportunities for students to be consulted before the University pursued an increased partnership with MPD.

“I think [the Board] needs to have better communication, better transparency with students, because we all have a stake here at the University,” Mina Zhang, the Undergraduate Student Government’s communications director, said. “We all have a stake in keeping our campus safe in the ways we envision it. Not just how Joan [Gabel] and how the Board sees it.”

In June, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined Frey is legally obligated to hire more police officers or demonstrate why MPD cannot, meanwhile, the Department has struggled with its reputation and trust among residents after its officers killed three black men –– George Floyd, Amir Locke and Tekle Sundberg –– since 2020.

Some residents said they see a more fundamental issue of trust that needs to be repaired first.

“I don’t think the best-qualified person is capable of pushing back against what MPD has become,” Cal Mergendahl, a member of the University’s branch of Students for a Democratic Society, said. “It’s become the thing that people are afraid of. They dislike what they don’t trust, and MPD hasn’t done very much in the past few years to really earn that trust.”