Who Impacts Public Safety
It's not just the police - many organizations have a role in reimagining and delivering better public safety outcomes
Under the current City Charter, the mayor and city council provide work and direction to city departments, with the exception of the police department. The mayor appoints and supervises the chief of police and, except for budget, has “complete power” over the establishment, maintenance and command of the Minneapolis Police Department (“MPD”). The mayor makes all rules, regulations and special orders necessary to its operation. The mayor nominates and the city council appoints the police chief, who serves a three year term. The chief of police “under the direction of the mayor” commands the MPD and reports to the mayor any “negligence or refusal” by police officers to discharge their duties.
The mayor drafts the city budget and appoints department heads with the ratification of the council. The mayor proposes the budget, and the city council funds it (including funding for the police force).
As part of administrative duties and through the city’s Labor Relations Division, the mayor directs the collective bargaining of the city’s labor contract with the Minneapolis Police Federation.
For information on how Mayor Jacob Frey and the city are responding in the wake of the Floyd tragedy and reimagining public safety, see Efforts to Reimagine.
The Minneapolis City Council is the legislative, policy and administrative body of the city government. It is comprised of 13 members who are elected every four years by the voters of Minneapolis. The entire council will be up for election in this year’s November elections. Each council member is elected from and represents the interests of their ward.
The mayor drafts the city budget and appoints department heads with the ratification of the council. Along with the mayor, the city council provides work and direction to city departments. However, one department, the police, is an exception to this general rule in that the city charter provides that the mayor appoints and supervises the chief of police and has complete power over the police department.
The city council in the past has undertaken initiatives related to policing and community safety. In 2006, the city of Minneapolis declared youth violence a public health crisis. The mayor and city council gathered 30 community leaders and experts to form a Youth Violence Steering Committee to create a comprehensive Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence. Other actions by the city council include review of internal police audits to increase use of body cameras, the creation of a workgroup to review the impact of off-duty work on officers and a ban on chokeholds by Minneapolis police officers.
On June 26th, the city council voted to dismantle and replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Protection. This came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in South Minneapolis in May and three days of community protest and rioting that erupted and developed into a call to defund the Minneapolis Police Department. A second city council vote created a draft charter amendment to accomplish this change, and the council sent that amendment to the Charter Commission for review and inclusion on the fall 2020 ballot. The Charter Commission rejected the amendment as “flawed” and called for further study.
On September 24th, 2020, the mayor released a draft 2021 budget plan which allocated $179 million for the police department, a reduction of $14 million. He included $2.6 million in new funds for the Office of Violence Prevention (an office that was created in 2018). The next month, the council called for an alternative method of 911 calls, a public health oriented violence prevention approach and law enforcement reforms.
On November 27, 2020, the council introduced an amendment to the mayor's budget that moved more money and community engagement programs from the police department to the Office of Violence Prevention and other departments, and decreased the authorized size of the police department by 138 officers. On December 9th, the council approved its budget, which restored the number of authorized police officers to 888 and moved $8 million more from the department. The budget then went back to the mayor for approval.
In January of 2021, three council members proposed another charter amendment which would create a new city Department of Public Safety “to provide public safety services including law enforcement,” and remove the police department from under exclusive control of the mayor. The amendment was sent to the Charter Commission for review. The Charter Commission intends to finish their review in May of 2021 and send the amendment back to the council.
For more information on how the Minneapolis City Council and the mayor are responding in the wake of the Floyd tragedy and reimagining public safety, see Efforts to Reimagine.
Office of Violence Prevention
The Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) was created in 2018 and launched in January of 2019. It is rooted in violence prevention work the Health Department has done since 2006 - work that takes a more holistic, public health approach to public safety. Starting in 2015, the Health Department expanded its services to new populations and tried new approaches that better coordinated violence prevention and community safety efforts, which led to establishment of the OVP in 2018.
The Minneapolis City Council has committed to the Office of Violence Prevention its public health approach to reducing violence and increasing public safety. In particular, the Council reallocated funding from the Minneapolis Police Department to the Office of Violence Prevention in the 2021 budget, as well as expanded funding of the OVP.
Office of Performance & Innovation
The Office of Performance and Innovation (OPI) integrates strategic planning & analysis and innovation into one team to focus on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of city services.
Located in the City Coordinator’s Office, the team has a staff of six.
This office operates as a PMO (Project Management Office) and is working across the city departments and with outside organizations to manage or support many of the public safety pilot and improvement programs. Learn more related to 911 calls and co-responders.
Minneapolis Civil Rights Department
The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) is a city department charged with enforcing the city’s code of ordinances, including those relating to non-discrimination and police conduct oversight. Within the department is the Police Oversight Commission, made up of volunteers who are Minneapolis residents, and the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR). The Police Oversight Commission is charged with conducting audits and studies based on MPD data and making recommendations on MPD policies and procedures. Among its recommendations were the creation of a co-responder pilot project for social workers to respond with police officers to mental health-related calls.
The OPCR is a neutral agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct made by citizens to the City. It also maintains a dashboard/data portal that contains up-to-date statistics regarding MPD complaints, open cases and investigations, demographics, officer discipline and review panel recommendations.
Minnesota state laws establish standard plans for governance of cities in the state. However, in 1896 the Minnesota constitution was amended to allow citizens to create city governments and “home rule” to govern its inhabitants. Efforts to establish the “home rule” charter for Minneapolis failed until 1920 when the State Legislature codified general statutes applicable to these particular cities and laws specific to Minneapolis, which created the City Charter. In 2013, voters adopted a “plain language” revised Charter that went into effect January 1, 2015. See City of Minneapolis Charter History.
The City Charter defines the power given to the city government by the state. It is akin to a constitution for the city. It lays out the terms, responsibilities and duties of elected officials and departments, and establishes lines of authority.
Pursuant to the charter, the Minneapolis Charter Commission maintains the “home rule” charter of the city and is composed of fifteen Minneapolis voters, appointed by the chief judge of Hennepin County District Court. The charter commission can propose amendments, the citizens can propose amendments by a petition signed by a number of registered voters equal to 5% of total votes cast in the last general election, and the city council can propose amendments. The charter commission reviews amendments proposed by the city council for approval, rejection or return with substitute language to the city council. Amendments go to the voters OR are passed by ordinance by unanimous vote of the city council and mayor. See Amending the Charter.
In the summer of 2020, in response to the police killing of George Floyd, the city council drafted an amendment to change the city charter relative to the structure and lines of authority for the Minneapolis Police Department. The charter commission rejected the amendment as “flawed” and called for further study of the issues. To understand more about this amendment and others currently being considered, go to The Charter Amendments.
The Charter in its present form mandates that the police department have one police officer for every 588 people, which results in a minimum of 730 sworn officers based on the latest census estimates of the city's population.
Since 1972, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis (the “Federation” or “the union”) has represented police officers up to the rank of lieutenant who are employed by the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The Federation currently has over 800 members, and is the largest non-affiliated law enforcement union in Minnesota. It represents officers in matters relating to their pay and working conditions (e.g. wages, health insurance, discipline), including negotiating and enforcing the labor contract, lobbying to advance their interests, filing grievances, and representing individual officers during critical incident investigations and disciplinary hearings.
The Federation Board of Directors consists of 10 elected members (9 from the Minneapolis Police Department and 1 from the Park Police Department), each serving a two-year term. The Federation president serves full time, along with one designated board member. The rest serve part-time while remaining full-time members of the police force.
After the George Floyd killing in 2020, the Union’s President Bob Kroll, who has held that office since 2015, was often criticized by certain groups for what they perceived as unfairly protecting rogue Minneapolis police officers, and many called for his resignation. Bob Kroll resigned effective January 31, 2021. Kroll’s second in command, Sgt. Sherral Schmidt, is now chair and giving some reform-minded groups hope that change is possible in the Federation.
Police and the city operate under a contract that governs everything from assignments and scheduling, hiring and benefits to overtime and discipline. The parties to the contract are the City of Minneapolis and the Police Officers’ Federation of Minneapolis, a labor union with changing leadership but strong support from its members, and a powerful lobbying presence at the state capitol. Both the mayor and the city council must approve the contract prior to it being signed by the city.
To understand current issues regarding the contract and how it acts as a barrier to improving relations between police, the city and the community, see Efforts to Reimagine: The Federation Union Contract
In Minneapolis, on average, there are over 1,000 police, fire and ambulance responses to 911 calls per day.
Police calls are handled in order of urgency. Threats to life or property are handled first, followed by those calls with more stable situations. For example, music complaints may have to wait while police deal with robberies and assaults.
911 operations are managed by the Minneapolis Emergency Communications Center (MECC) which is its own department, under the city coordinator, and separate from the police department. However, MECC is also a part of the Hennepin County 911 system governed by the State of Minnesota and state statute. MECC is further governed by a regional agency, the Metropolitan Services Board. There are 8 separate 911 systems in Hennepin County: MECC, Hennepin County Sheriff, Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, St. Louis Park, Minneapolis St. Paul Airport, and the University of Minnesota.
MECC handles all 911 calls (Police, Fire, and EMS) for the city proper and does its own hiring and training. For medical calls, they take the initial information and then the call is given to either Hennepin Healthcare or North Memorial for ambulance service. Police and fire calls are handed off to the appropriate agencies.
Each system does its own hiring and training. Applicants seeking to become a 911 operator in Minnesota are required to pass a physical examination, pass Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) certificate within probation, and pass Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) certificate within probation. There are many other qualifications necessary.
All 911 dispatchers receive several months of training. In an interview with LWVMpls, Anna, a dispatcher for a large Emergency Communications Center for one of the counties in the metro area, described 4 weeks of classroom training as 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, covering a variety of topics including but not limited to how to use the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, how to classify calls with the proper Type Code, and how to navigate phone calls using recordings of real calls as well as mock phone calls. In addition, there is 4-6 weeks of on-the-floor training, when the trainee takes live phone calls while paired with a Certified Training Officer. And, finally, 911 dispatchers experienced Quality Assessment (QA) during training and beyond, which means a sample of phone calls are selected and reviewed, supervisor feedback given, and questions addressed. Anna indicated that questions and feedback are also offered informally on a regular basis outside of QA.
911 is central to reimagining public safety, particularly with regard to mental health calls.
Hennepin County has a comprehensive plan that addresses mental health needs of individuals caught up in the criminal justice system. In November 2020, the County detailed those efforts in a five-year report, Working together to Interrupt the Spiral: Hennepin County Criminal Justice Behavioral Initiative. Two of the programs that the County sponsors are described below.
Community Outreach for Psychiatric Emergencies (COPE)
COPE is a mobile mental health crisis intervention program. The state mandates mental health crisis services in all counties in Minnesota via the Minnesota Department of Human Services. In Minneapolis, Hennepin County COPE provides 24-7-365 crisis services and a call center to adults experiencing a psychiatric emergency. (Phone number 612-596-1223 for those 18 years and up. Emergencies involving children are directed to 612-348-2233.) In addition to telephone assessment and in-home or face-to-face crisis response, COPE can arrange for continued mental health support for individuals for up to 30 days and make referrals to residential care.
A typical member of a COPE team has a Master’s level of education and additional licensure and credentials. The diversity and experience of the staff helps make them effective in the work they do.
From 2017 to the spring of 2020, COPE worked with the Minneapolis Police Department in a Co-Responder program. Hennepin County provided the mental health workers who responded to police calls with police officers. In the spring of 2020, the program was suspended due to COVID-19.
Leah Kaiser, Hennepin County Human Services Department Administrator, explained in a December 2020 interview with LWVMpls that “Covid has been hard on everything. The governor’s stay-at-home order meant that all had to work at home. . . . Once the vaccine makes its way into the workforce, we will be able to make our way into making those calls in person.”
When Police find someone in crisis, they can use the facility at 1800 Chicago as a resource. 1800 is an “Urgicare” as opposed to an emergency room. When an individual arrives at 1800, they need no appointment for a team of medical staff and social service staff to review their immediate needs. The individual in crisis can stay for up to 10 days and detox, and if they need a longer period of assistance, social workers and other staff at 1800 can work with them for 3-6 months, connecting them to medical, behavioral, food and employment resources. There are 64 beds for withdrawal and 16 mental health beds (although Covid has created some capacity issues).
The County drew on national models of early diversion facilities as they transformed a county-owned three-story, nearly 103,000-square-foot building into the 1800 Chicago Avenue facility, just south of downtown Minneapolis. In 2018, the county added a 16-bed mental health stabilization program and contracted its operation to a community-based agency.
This program served close to 1,000 people in 2019. Participants experienced:
- 85% reduction in crisis symptoms and improvement in psychiatric stability
- 93% discharge to the least restrictive living environment after treatment
The space offers the right level of care at the right time and provides residents with community health and well-being resources.
Minnesota Department of Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), created in 1969, is an enforcement, licensing and services agency, operating programs in law enforcement, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, fire safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. The State Patrol, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), and the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division are part of this agency, under the authority of present Commissioner of Public Safety, John Harrington, who was appointed by the governor.
At the request of local law enforcement, the BCA investigates officer-involved shootings. BCA investigations often occur when an officer uses or tries to use deadly force or when an officer intentionally uses force that leads to serious injury or death. The BCA is independent of local law enforcement and not subject to its authority. Since 2009, the BCA has investigated a large majority of officer-involved shootings in Minneapolis. Recently, the BCA has investigated shootings in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Center, Blaine, Wadena and Duluth. The BCA also assists local agencies in cases requiring specialized technical or investigative skills.
The State Patrol also falls under the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The State Patrol’s main function is traffic and highway vehicle law enforcement. However, the State Patrol’s officers have the power of arrest, and it has statewide law enforcement reach. The State Patrol was called in to protect the State Capitol and to assist Minneapolis during the protests and civil unrest in the summer of 2020.
The Minnesota Peace Officer Training Board, or POST Board, establishes law enforcement licensing and training requirements and sets standards for law enforcement agencies and officers throughout the state.
Minnesota's first step toward regulating the practice of law enforcement came in 1967 when the Minnesota Peace Officer Training Board (MPOTB) was created by the legislature. Beginning in 1968, MPOTB's responsibilities included certification of agencies offering police academy training, in an attempt to standardize police training in the state.
In 1977, the Minnesota legislature debated the role of law enforcement in society and then passed several amendments to the original MPOTB legislation. They abolished the MPOTB and replaced it with the current Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST Board). Its mission was to create the first law enforcement occupational licensing system in the United States. This system established law enforcement licensing and training requirements and set standards for law enforcement agencies and officers.
Per MN Statute 626.841, the POST Board is composed of the following 17 members, with most appointed by the governor:
- 2 sheriffs
- 4 municipal police officers, including at least two chiefs of police
- 2 peace officers, one who is a member of the Minnesota State Patrol Association
- 1 superintendent of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or a designee
- 2 peace officers or former peace officers currently employed in a professional peace officer education program
- 1 administrator from Minnesota colleges or universities that offer professional peace officer education
- 1 elected city official from a city outside the metropolitan area with a population under 5,000;
- 4 members of the general public (3 of these positions are currently vacant)
The governor appoints a chair with a goal (by statute) of achieving representation from among the geographic areas of the state. Kelly McCarthy, Chief of Police in Mendota Heights, is the current Chair of the POST Board.
POST Board Powers and Duties
Among its duties, the board licenses peace officers and part-time peace officers; administers license examinations; establishes minimum qualifications and standards of conduct and monitors compliance with them; regulates professional peace officer education and continuing education for peace officers; establishes and maintains pre-service education curriculum.
Learn about 2020 changes to the P.O.S.T. Board to help ensure the protection of civil and human rights and promote positive interactions between peace officers and the community.
In our scheme of federal and state government, police powers and control generally belong to the state (who delegates those to counties and cities). At least one federal law, however, exists outside this scheme and has a huge impact on that state power: Qualified Immunity.
Qualified Immunity protects public employees from being sued individually for actions they undertake on the job, unless that public employee violates “clearly established” statutory or constitutional rights. See Qualified Immunity | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School, June 3, 2020
Since 2009, courts have dismissed more than half of cases brought against individual police officers based on qualified immunity. See Shielded | For cops who kill, special Supreme Court protection, Reuters, June 1, 2020.
Qualified Immunity was created at the federal level, and any direct change to it must be made at the federal level. For that to happen, either courts need to reinterpret it, with the Supreme Court affirming, OR the federal legislature needs to transform it through legislation passed by both bodies and signed by the sitting president.
Proposed Charter Amendments
Press articles, scholarly articles, reports and studies
A collection of frequently asked questions