Some of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey's past political rivals have agreed to work with him on a new commission that aims to improve public safety in the city.
Two former candidates for mayor who ran against Frey — Sheila Nezhad and Nekima Levy Armstrong — are among the 35 who have joined the group, which also includes Frey supporter and former mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. The commission brings together activists who have pushed to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with department supporters, most notably Chief Medaria Arradondo, whom Frey hopes to persuade to return for another term.
"We're all here today because we collectively realize and understand that there is a lot of work left to do," Frey said in a news conference Thursday morning. "We need to keep our foot on the gas."
The Minneapolis Police Department is at a crucial juncture. Just weeks ago, it survived a push to replace it, but many are still calling for meaningful changes following George Floyd's killing. It's not yet clear who will lead the department next year. Arradondo's term expires in January, and he has not yet publicly announced whether he wants to stay on for another one. Asked if Arradondo has committed to staying, Frey said, "we are working on that every single day."
The public safety commission is tasked with providing the mayor with a number of recommendations on how to improve accountability for the department and how to expand safety services outside of policing. Frey said he doesn't want to predict what sorts of ideas they might provide him with but hopes the group will identify topics the city can tackle unilaterally and ones that might require assistance from other levels of government.
This is the third commission that Frey unveiled as he prepares to take on additional powers Friday. This fall, voters approved a charter change that designates the mayor as the "chief executive" responsible for overseeing most departments' operations, and prohibiting the council from interfering with his directions.
The group is being co-chaired by the Rev. DeWayne Davis, who is the lead minister for the Plymouth Congregational Church, and Levy Armstrong, an attorney and civil rights activist who ran against Frey in 2017.
"As someone who normally works outside of what happens in City Hall and taking to the streets, along with many other activists, I recognize that it's time to come on the inside and do what I can do in collaboration with the people who have signed up to be a part of this massive undertaking," Levy Armstrong said at the news conference.
"We have competing demands right now, one that includes the needs to address the longstanding issues within the Minneapolis Police Department and to bolster the leadership of Chief Arradondo and those who have remained in the department, as well as to address public safety concerns, particularly that the Black community has been experiencing."
Frey said he hopes the group will provide recommendations in the "first half" of next year. The mayor has previously said that the commissions he's forming won't be meeting publicly — he wants people to feel free to speak bluntly as they're debating policy issues — but he expects to make their recommendations public.