Jason Sole, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter’s public safety adviser and a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform, is stepping down after telling the mayor that his ideas were ignored.
Sole, a criminal justice professor and past president of the Minneapolis NAACP, resigned as St. Paul’s director of Community-First Public Safety Initiatives after less than a year on the job.
Sole did not respond to a request for comment Monday, but in a letter sent to Carter this month, Sole said he would not seek to renew his contract when it expired in March. Sole wrote that he was “disillusioned” over the past year, complaining of being “ostracized” by a mayor who disregarded his recommendations and didn’t give “a dollar” to support Sole’s initiatives.
In response, a spokeswoman for Carter shared a short statement from the mayor: “I appreciate Jason Sole’s service and wish him well. His contributions and feedback will continue to inform our Community-First Public Safety Strategies moving forward.”
On Jan. 25, Deputy Mayor Jaime Tincher sent a letter to Sole telling him she’d accepted his resignation Jan. 21. His last day will be Feb. 4, seven weeks before his contract expires.
Rising from his past as a Chicago gang member, Sole earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, worked as an assistant professor at Metropolitan State University and is now an instructor at Hamline University. He was president of the Minneapolis NAACP before starting his job with St. Paul in March 2018. Over his first few months, he held community meetings around town to gather community feedback on what his priorities should be.
According to the letter he wrote Carter, however, he and the mayor disagreed on priorities from the start.
During Sole’s first week on the job, he wrote, he refused to support a youth data-sharing agreement with Ramsey County — yet, Carter disregarded his recommendations. The project fizzled on Monday, when Carter, Ramsey County Board Chairman Jim McDonough and schools Superintendent Joe Gothard announced the dissolution of an agreement that would have allowed them to share data and coordinate services.
Sole listed other disagreements: over Carter’s support of Keith Ellison in his race for attorney general, with Sole expressing support for Ellison’s ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan, who alleged she was abused; over the mayor’s support for the Ramsey County Gun Violence Initiative; and over Carter’s decision to hire nine additional police officers.
“You stated in your inauguration speech that we are not safer with more cops and that you are invested in a community-first public safety approach. Yet, you allocated money for police. #politicsasusual,” Sole wrote.
He added: “You stated that we express our values by how we spend our money. I wasn’t given a dollar to lead my community-first public safety initiatives, which clearly shows that there is no value in this role.”
During his campaign for mayor, Carter said “making our neighborhoods safer for everyone will require a new approach. True community safety means preventing crime before it happens — by investing in strong neighborhoods — and ensuring that our police officers have the training, tools and community connections they need to ensure greater safety for all St. Paul residents.”
Sole wrote that the mayor hasn’t followed through. “I have tried to be as supportive as I could possibly be for you but it hasn’t been reciprocated,” he wrote. “You can’t name one initiative you’ve supported of mine.”