The city of Minneapolis has paid two private security firms $63,000 over the last three weeks to protect three City Council members amid tensions over George Floyd’s death and efforts to end the Police Department.
While the city has not named the council members — saying their identities weren’t public information — the Star Tribune has confirmed they are Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins and Council Members Alondra Cano and Phillipe Cunningham.
“This security service is intended to be temporary and bridge to other security measures implemented by council members themselves,” city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said Monday.
McKenzie said the city has spent $63,000 over the past three weeks for security service for three council members. She said contracts for less than $175,000 typically do not need public approval from council, and they do not expect these expenses to surpass that threshold.
The security is coming from two companies: Aegis and Belcom. McKenzie said the companies provide licensed, armed security officers.
The council members have been under increasing scrutiny since they and some of their colleagues gathered in Powderhorn Park earlier this month and promised to begin the process of ending the Minneapolis Police Department. The plans were vague at that point, heightening tensions between people who wanted to dismantle the department and those who feared the repercussions of a city without a traditional police force.
On Friday, the City Council voted unanimously to advance a proposal that would eliminate from the city charter — essentially its constitution — the requirement to maintain and fund the department. In its place, the city would be required to have a department of community safety and violence prevention, which could employ “licensed peace officers” but wouldn’t be required to do so. That would ultimately need approval from voters.
Asked whether the Minneapolis Police Department had any reports of threats against council members, department spokesman John Elder said he didn’t have any information he could share. In Minnesota, public officials who make reports to police can ask that their name be redacted, which would prohibit the department from confirming whether those reports exist.
“The Minneapolis Police Department takes threats seriously and [they] will/would be vigorously investigated,” Elder said in an e-mail.
Cunningham, in a Twitter thread, compared the security that council members are receiving to coverage provided regularly to the mayor.
The city has provided security to the mayor dating back decades.
That security is provided through the Minneapolis Police Department. An officer, who also serves as a driver, accompanies the mayor at most public events. At least two officers rotate on that schedule. During large public events, they might work simultaneously.
It was not immediately clear how the cost of the mayor’s security compares to the cost of the private security being offered to council members. Elder said MPD did not receive requests for security for council members.
Jenkins declined to comment about the private security, saying she feared the story would jeopardize the safety of her, Cano and Cunningham.
“A story about that really makes it even more necessary to have security,” she said.
Cano said she was tied up Monday in meetings about the homeless encampment in Powderhorn Park, and Cunningham did not respond to a message.
Cunningham previously tweeted that he had “received numerous death threats since I was campaigning for either being transgender or outspoken about police accountability and systems change.”
He wrote that he did not feel comfortable providing more detail. “Security was offered to me by the City, and I accepted it because I need to keep my family safe from the very real threats against me. … I believe any reasonable person would have accepted help like I did. It’s unfortunate my family’s safety has been exploited for a news talking point.”