Minneapolis City Council members on Friday approved plans to seek assistance from both community groups and other police departments during the trial in George Floyd's death.
The trial for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to draw attention from around the world. City leaders have said they hope to avoid a repeat of the rioting that followed Floyd's death last year while also supporting residents who will be reliving painful memories as the trial unfolds.
With jury selection set to begin March 8, city leaders are finalizing contracts with nearby police and sheriff's departments that have agreed to help, if needed.
"Our hope is that the number of days we need these officers will be very short, that it will be a trial where there is peaceful expression of First Amendment rights and not destruction or other types of illegal activities that would require these officers to be around for numerous days," City Coordinator Mark Ruff told council members during their meeting Friday morning.
Council members voted 11-2 Friday to allow the Minneapolis Police Department to enter contracts with at least 14 agencies. That cost could run up to $1.5 million, which they plan to cover using the police department's normal budget.
But Ruff said city leaders hope they will ultimately be able to use state funding to cover those costs.
Minnesota lawmakers are trying to break through a stalemate over the creation of a new $35 million account that could reimburse agencies that provide mutual aid, including for the Chauvin trial. Negotiations are expected to continue throughout the weekend.
Voting against the contracts with law enforcement were Council Members Jeremiah Ellison and Cam Gordon, who have at times echoed some residents' concerns that a large police presence or the wide-scale installation of wire fences and concrete barriers throughout the city could re-traumatize people already harmed by police violence.
The council unanimously approved a plan to spend nearly $1.2 million to contract with community groups who can help ease tensions throughout the trial. Ruff said the city plans to begin informally soliticing proposals from community groups next week and expects the contracts to be finalized before opening statements begin in late March.
Office of Violence Prevention Director Sasha Cotton has said the city hopes to work with groups that have de-escalation training and is looking at adding community events and "therapeutic spaces" where people can process what is happening. They also plan to work with media outlets that distribute information in varying languages and social media influencers who can help dispel rumors and pass along concerns from residents.
"We already see groups in a volunteer capacity stepping up and helping facilitate communication with members of our community," Council President Lisa Bender said, "and this is, I think, the city acknowledging that a lot of that work is going unpaid and that the city should step up and provide resources to help fund that."
Both plans now head to Mayor Jacob Frey, who will approve them, according to spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich.
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994