Board members of a downtown Minneapolis neighborhood group Monday raised concerns about the City Council’s intention to create a new public safety model.
Council Member Steve Fletcher spoke to the group of about 40 via Zoom teleconferencing. People on the call asked several questions, ranging from the possibility of a charter amendment to change the Police Department to the number of peace officers who would continue to be paid to respond to 911 calls.
“The city has been through a lot,” said Fletcher. “Three weeks ago, we thought we were in a crisis we never thought we would be governing through because of COVID. Then we woke up to the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.”
The meeting was sponsored by the Minneapolis Downtown Neighborhood Association, which covers the Downtown West and East neighborhoods. Its website said it represents the interests of 150,000 people who live, work and own property in the area.
Board member Joe Tamburino, who frequently advocates for more downtown safety and police officers, said the City Council’s announcement of a possible charter change for a new public safety model was “reckless” and “sent shock waves” to residents.
Board vice chairman Kevin Frazell said he knows something has to be changed with the Police Department, but hoped that neighborhoods could come together to discuss it. “I hear words like defund, abolish and dismantle, but there isn’t a common definition of what these mean,” he said. “Before voters go to the polls to change the charter, we need to know what will happen. Fear, anger and trauma can’t be the guides for a new public safety department.”
Board chairwoman Pam McCrea voiced some frustration about seeing only white faces during the meeting, but said “Floyd’s death has brought us all together.” She said she heard from relatives living in north Minneapolis that they don’t call 911 because they have issues with police.
Fletcher said he saw hope that a culture change might be happening after a group of Minneapolis police officers signed a letter condemning Derek Chauvin’s actions.