Understanding the State and Federal Public Safety Findings

The LWVMpls Reimagining Public Safety Committee has been following the city, state, and federal efforts to reform the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and generally improve public safety in our city. This summer there have been three major milestones reached in this process: the release of the United States Department of Justice’s (DOJ) report on its investigation of the City of Minneapolis (City) and the MPD; the court approval of the settlement agreement between the City and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR), and the release of a report and plan developed by Dr. Antonio Oftelie of Harvard University.

The DOJ investigation found racist and abusive behavior and first amendment violations by the MPD. The settlement agreement between the City and the MDHR, based on similar conclusions by the MDHR, puts in place a slate of legally required police reforms. The DOJ report will also be used to develop an agreement with the City on changes that need to be made. 

While the DOJ findings and the MDHR settlement agreement focus mainly on police reforms, the Harvard report is broader in scope. On July 12, Dr. Oftelie presented an overview of the report and plan, titled “Minneapolis Safe and Thriving Communities Report,” to the City Council’s Public Health and Safety Committee. The report was the culmination of a three-year study of public safety issues in Minneapolis. The report includes research on best practices and innovations in policing and health and human services. Commissioned by the City and funded by local foundations, the plan provides the City with a roadmap of reforms necessary to create a safer and healthier community.

The report urges City leaders to develop a robust continuum of services that address the root causes of its public safety challenges, in addition to police reform. The needed services are broken into three categories:

  1. Preventative Services, such as violence prevention and intervention programs, but also programs that address social, economic, health and equity challenges before they manifest as criminal behavior.
  2. Responsive Services, which include virtual civil responses, multi-disciplinary co-responses, social/mental/behavioral health responses, and sworn officer responses. 
  3. Restorative Services, these are services that over the long term heal trauma from violence, address root causes of violence, and help build capacity for community resilience.

In his presentation, Dr. Oftelie laid out five first steps to create a network of services and programs that work together to solve the root causes of community safety challenges.  According to Dr. Oftelie, this plan would be “the most ambitious plan around public safety and community safety in the nation.” In his view, if the City’s leaders commit the sizable amount of time and resources needed to execute this plan, they could “achieve an entirely new level of value, legitimacy, and trust in how Minneapolis fosters and sustains safe and thriving communities.”