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One year ago, the people of Minneapolis had a defining question before them — whether to address our public safety challenges with a recognition we would need every resource available, or advance unrealistic visions and hope that fewer police would somehow result in less crime.
Despite the contentious nature of the city’s 2021 public safety discussion, there was one thing all sides had in common — a recognition that the status quo is not tenable and real change is needed.
The change our region’s business community was seeking, and the reason we were so actively involved in that debate, is now in the initial stages of development. We knew that these needed changes would not happen overnight and that, simultaneously, the community’s patience is wearing thin. However, building a city that is safer, and also more equitable and accountable, will take some time.
A key step forward happened recently with Mayor Jacob Frey’s nomination of Cedric Alexander as the first Community Safety commissioner for Minneapolis.
This newly created position will bring together all of the city’s safety efforts for the first time — unifying the work of the Police Department, Fire Department, 911, Office of Emergency Management, and Neighborhood Safety, formerly known as the Office of Violence Prevention.
Alexander’s more than 40 years as a public servant at local, state and federal levels, including as a police chief, deputy mayor and police officer, provide him with a unique set of tools and expertise to serve the residents, visitors and businesses of Minneapolis in this critically important job.
Implementing significant and substantive reforms, in particular related to policing, begins with this transformative new office and position.
Creation of a new Office of Community Safety was possible only because Minneapolis voted “yes” on Question 1, giving Mayor Jacob Frey expanded authority under a strong mayor system, and “no” on Question 2, preventing the potential dismantling of the Police Department. That’s why the Minneapolis Regional Chamber advocated strongly for those positions and why we invested considerable resources to educate voters.
Now we are working with a variety of voices to transform and reform public safety in Minneapolis. While crime levels are down from last year, they are still far too high. In order to keep our community safe, we support hiring hundreds of additional officers while also enhancing resources that provide mental health support and alternate response systems. It is important to stabilize our Police Department, because ensuring that officers can respond to incidents across the city is a key part of keeping people safe and building the foundation for larger reform.
Ultimately the Twin Cities and our state are successful only if our largest city is also successful. Rooting against Minneapolis while hoping for a better Minnesota is counterproductive.
The good news is that anonymous Twitter naysayers aren’t the majority. There are thousands of residents and business leaders in and around Minneapolis willing to roll up their sleeves and do the challenging work of advancing a new and better vision for public safety. For those of us who love this place, there is no other answer.
Jonathan Weinhagen is president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber and can be found on Twitter at @jweinhagen & @MplsChamber.