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Minneapolis community envisions new possibilities for Third Precinct

City council approved a new location for the Third Precinct/Community Safety Center at the beginning of the month.
Image by Devlin Epding
The 3rd Precinct on Lake Street on Tuesday, Feb. 28th.

Deserted by Minneapolis police and set aflame during the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) Third Precinct on Minnehaha Avenue has sat desolate and empty for the past three years.

Now, surrounded by tall barbed wire fences and forgotten protest signs, the Third Precinct is being revisioned due to the Minneapolis City Council’s approval for a new location. The new Third Precinct/Community Safety Center will now stand at 2633 Minnehaha Ave., approximately six blocks from the former precinct building.

The city council approved the new location in an 8-5 vote on Nov. 2. The overall project will cost approximately $4 million to purchase the site and another $10 million for construction. The new building is estimated to take about nine to 12 months to complete.

In an email statement to The Minnesota Daily, MPD Chief Brian O’Hara said he is thankful for the city council’s approval of the new location of the Precinct.

“I am hopeful this location can ultimately house complimentary services to address not only what police are not best suited to handle, but also address some of the root causes of repeat crimes and victimization,” O’Hara said in the statement.

Ward 6 Councilmember Jamal Osman said he does not want to see just a standard police precinct but a place with integrated safety services like behavioral health crisis services, addiction resources, a mental health program and youth services. Osman said these additional services are important if Minneapolis wants to revise MPD.

“We have to rebuild [a] relationship with the community,” Osman said. “We have one, especially when we’re spending $14 million out of this building. Let’s find a useful way for the community.”

Osman said he and Ward 11 Councilmember Emily Koski outlined these commitments with Mayor Jacob Frey in a resolution they created before the approval. According to the resolution, the city council is committed to being transparent, inclusive, accountable and equitable during the building and operation process.

“I was able to talk to the mayor, to talk to the Public Safety Commissioner, to talk to others, and say, is this really happening?” Osman said. “I’m just hoping that they honor that it’s a solution, and they open this place with Community Safety Center included.”

Osman said he is aware of the traumatic history of the former Third Precinct and of the wounds the new precinct could reopen in the community. Osman added he believes with a different location, a different building and a different approach, this police station and safety center can be better for the community.

“I want to bring, ‘How can I work with the community members to make sure they’re healing?’ ‘How can I work with the police leadership to make sure that change is happening?’” Osman said. “That’s what I’m going to work on in a couple of years.”

Trahern Crews, founder of Black Lives Matter Minnesota, said with MPD’s history of racial discrimination, findings from the Department of Justice and Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and lack of noticeable change, the approval for a new location feels like “a slap in the face.”

“You don’t even have police officers to fill the Minneapolis Police Department in the first place so it doesn’t feel good,” Crews said.

Crews added building a new precinct is not going to help the community’s relationship and trust with MPD. According to Crews, there needs to be a change in the policing culture in MPD and the community before real and beneficial differences can happen.

“I think you have to address the culture of the Minneapolis Police before putting a new building around,” Crews said. “These practices have to change first before we actually see change in a new building.”

Crews said a change that needs to happen is police accountability and police-community relationships throughout Minneapolis and the United States. Crews added any changes within MPD cannot be done without the community and critically thinking about what it means to have a police presence.

“What’s happening right now is just not working,” Crews said. “I think it’s really time to start reimagining what policing looks like, what a police officer is.”

Toshira Garraway Allen, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, said she is saddened by the decision to rebuild the Third Precinct. The community needs to properly heal before increasing police presence in Minneapolis, according to Allen.

“I just feel like you know we can’t do things the same old way and expect different results,” Allen said.

Allen said despite knowing there are good officers in MPD, the prior harm and trauma still riddle the community with fear and hesitation for even a Community Safety Center. Allen added the first step to change policing in Minneapolis is to establish trust in MPD by connecting with the community more.

“I pray that there will be a time where we can truly work together not as people in political seats, not as community members, but as human beings,” Allen said. “That’s what I’m praying for Minneapolis, St. Paul and the whole state of Minnesota.”

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