After another weekend of shocking violence, Mayor Jacob Frey convened city leaders Monday on a north Minneapolis street corner to assure residents he’s got a plan to keep them safe — even though he apparently lacks the support of several City Council members.
“This must mark a turning point,” the mayor said. “The ultimate goal is to make all Minneapolis neighborhoods safer.”
As cars and buses buzzed loudly through the busy intersection of Penn Avenue and W. Broadway, Frey released a 14-page “model for community safety and accountability” that includes short-, mid- and long-term goals that are both broad and specific.
It wasn’t clear, however, how much he can do on his own, when he might get it done and whether he can muster the necessary council votes.
Frey said he’s working to end traffic stops for low-level offenses such as small objects hanging from rearview mirrors and inoperable license plate lights. He said he’s working with the state to stop making expired tabs a primary reason for police to stop a driver.
The mayor said that he and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo would work with county, state and federal partners to “crack down” on violent offenders. The chief is trying to bring in additional state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) investigators to help with gun crimes.
Frey said he wants to increase funding for police overtime and for the Office of Violence Prevention. The mayor and his staff noted that the city recently received $271 million in federal American Rescue Act money, though most of that can only be spent with council approval. Frey said he would push for $2 million immediately for a community safety apprenticeship pilot program run by the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council.
As Frey spoke outside the Northside Achievement Zone headquarters, five council members stood behind him — two short of the number he would need to pass his proposals: Alondra Cano, Lisa Goodman, Jamal Osman, Linea Palmisano and Kevin Reich.
Council President Lisa Bender wasn’t there, but she listened and noted on Twitter the absence of the two Black council members, Phillipe Cunningham and Jeremiah Ellison, who represent the city’s North Side wards.
“After listening to the news conference I am not sure what the mayor is actually proposing here,” Bender wrote. “It seems to mainly be an indication he intends to propose some of the #AmericanRescuePlan funding on safety. Reminder: Mpls spends 1/3 of the general fund on the Police Department.”
She wasn’t the mayor’s only critic. Before Frey was done speaking, a man walking by with a young girl cut in and told the mayor his plan wouldn’t work because the “police come after the fact,” that “if you want the hitters, go up on Broadway right now.”
“You want to get out there and stop it, you’ve got to get out there in person,” the man said.
As he walked away, Frey urged everyone to give him a round of applause, while Arradondo followed him down the street to speak with him.
Next came Sharrie Jennings of Minneapolis, the grandmother of a 10-year-old boy shot last month and who left his bedside at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robinsdale to respond to the mayor after seeing him online. She stepped up to the microphone next to Frey.
“When is north Minneapolis going to stand up? When is enough?” Jennings said. “There’s two kids, an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old fighting for their life. My grandson didn’t deserve this.”
Ladavionne Garrett Jr. was a passenger in a vehicle when he was shot by someone from outside the vehicle April 30 in the 3400 block of Morgan Avenue N. On Saturday night, 9-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith was shot in the head while bouncing on a trampoline, from a vehicle that drove down an alley in the 2200 block of Ilona Avenue N. Both children are in critical condition.
“It’s two kids now, what is it going to be, a third one this weekend?” Jennings asked.
After the news conference, she said the neighborhood needs action. “We need boots on the ground. We need people out here every day,” she said.
Among the city officials who spoke, most pleaded for a community effort to end the violence. “Gun violence in our city is our biggest nemesis right now,” Arradondo said, while his department’s staffing is down a third.
The chief delivered a specific message to Hennepin County judges, urging them not to go easy on first- and second-time offenders. “When you are releasing violent individuals back to our community, there is a price we pay,” he said.
Cano spoke about the need to eradicate “commercial sexual exploitation on Lake Street,” and Palmisano said the city is at a “critical juncture” and must stem the “uptick in violence to make space for lasting growth.”
Goodman, Osman and Reich didn’t speak. But Sondra Samuels, president and CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone did: “We are here because we can’t take it anymore.”
Samuels urged both funding and transforming the department at the same time, not cutting it. She is part of a group suing for full police coverage. “This is not politics; this is serious,” she said.
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