Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey urged the City Council on Monday to get over its indecision and pick a site for the future Third Precinct police station, three years after it was torched.
"The City needs a precinct, and the community needs you to make a decision," Frey wrote in a letter to the 13-member council. The council could take up the issue as soon as Tuesday.
"Time is of the essence," he wrote, adding later: "If you as a body cannot come to a timely decision, then please grant me the authority to make it myself. … It is unfair to pass the cost of inaction onto Minneapolis residents."
The station was set ablaze days after George Floyd was murdered by an officer stationed there and remains a boarded-up, charred reminder of the unrest of 2020. Meanwhile, officers who serve south Minneapolis continue to operate out of makeshift quarters downtown — a situation roundly seen as unacceptable.
Earlier this month, the City Council went from seeming to greenlight the latest Third Precinct plan to balking at it, sending it back into a deliberative purgatory for perhaps two weeks — or much longer.
Council members said they were tapping the brakes because they had unanswered questions about the plan, which would co-locate the Third Precinct with a future site of the First Precinct in Century Plaza on the outskirts of downtown. The exact cost of the move has seemed elusive because aspects of it are commingled with an existing plan to move the First Precinct. At one point, city officials pegged the cost to develop portions of the building for the Third Precinct at $25 million, but that included some space dedicated only for future use by both precincts.
Also unclear: How long will the officers be there? Several council members were taken aback when Interim City Operations Officer Heather Johnston told them "10 years." Some had considered the site temporary, while Frey had previously called it "medium-term."
Unlike much of the tense discourse over policing, Frey's stern words Monday weren't reserved for his foes on the council, but the entire body, including his political allies. The council's decision was supported by all members present.
The challenge of where to house the Third Precinct officers has vexed officials for years.
An array of sentiments have swirled around the issue, from highly visible groups harshly critical of police in general, to quieter voices calling for police to return to the area they serve. Trauma from years of strained relations between police and some in the community, Floyd's murder and the unrest that followed was felt by many, without consensus on a solution.
In September 2021, a plan to temporarily lease a building on Minnehaha Avenue fell apart after the building was vandalized and protests were announced.
Last year, a process led by Frey's administration narrowed the possible permanent sites to two: rehabbing the charred building or erecting a new station on a nearby vacant city-owned lot.
Those options were cast aside after blowback over the process. The City Council eventually voted to ban police from ever returning to the previous precinct station — whatever becomes of it. It's unclear if that council resolution carries any legal weight.
Earlier this summer, Frey and Council President Andrea Jenkins announced the Century Plaza idea, and that plan steamed ahead. Until the last council meeting.
In his Monday letter, Frey suggested he's amenable to any of the three options, even offering this roadmap:
"As with all difficult decisions, there are trade-offs with each. If your decision is based on cost, then going back to the former Third Precinct building would be the most financially responsible decision. If you want a short-term solution while we collectively determine what a comprehensive approach to safety looks like in a physical space, then the First and Third co-location option may be best. If you are looking for a new, permanent physical space in a different location, 2600 Minnehaha would be your choice."
On Tuesday when the council meets as a committee, the Century Plaza plan will be on the agenda. It wasn't clear Monday whether the issue would be discussed in any meaningful way.