Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon recently introduced a proposal that would give the council equal authority with the mayor over the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
We believe that this change would create confusion, a lack of clarity over who is responsible for overseeing one of our city’s most important and basic functions — public safety. From the business community’s perspective, we think it is a bad idea to modify the reporting structure of the MPD to give the department 14 bosses — the mayor and 13 council members — rather than one.
Minneapolis just held an election last fall and chose a new mayor. Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo have set out on a course to ensure that the Police Department is responsive to the community and is engaged with residents and businesses. Diluting mayoral authority would weaken those efforts.
Currently, the city charter empowers the mayor to “make all rules and regulations and … promulgate and enforce general and special orders necessary to operating the police department.” We believe it is important to keep that authority with one individual, so that policy changes can be made promptly when needed and so that city voters know who oversees setting department policy. Right now, the buck stops with the mayor.
We understand the desire for additional accountability. But we disagree with Gordon and others who believe that spreading oversight of the Police Department to 14 elected officials will enhance accountability. Across the nation, there are no cities that have as diffuse a police leadership structure as is being proposed here.
Public safety is a shared responsibility around the city of Minneapolis. Strategies to combat crime and violence must consider the needs of the whole city. Creating 14 bosses for the Police Department invites powerful council members to direct police resources toward their interests and wards. That could be to the detriment of other areas of the city and more pressing public safety issues.
We also recognize, understand and support efforts to reform and improve the way policing happens in Minneapolis and in our state. Let’s find common ground to focus on this important issue and not move forward with a hastily considered plan that will make oversight of the Minneapolis Police Department less clear.
Houston White is founder and owner of HWMR, a barbershop, cafe and community meeting space in north Minneapolis. Jonathan Weinhagen is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. Steve Cramer is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.