Minneapolis City Hall and the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota federal courthouse. Photo by Tony Webster

Minneapolis looks into public safety beyond policing with new report

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MINNEAPOLIS— Yesterday, Mayor Jacob Frey announced recommendations from the Minneapolis Safe and Thriving Communities Report, which suggested alternatives to public safety beyond policing.

The city stated that the report outlines long-term visions and future recommendations for continuing to build out an ecosystem for public safety beyond the traditional police response.

“There’s full alignment here—we all want a comprehensive approach to community safety in Minneapolis, and that’s what we’ve set out to do,” said Mayor Frey. “I am grateful to Dr. Oftelie and his team for the dedication, hard work, and expert-level analysis that went into this report. Next, we will be looking at how to implement these recommendations, furthering safety beyond policing work well into the future and therefore freeing officers up to do the most critical work.”  

Mayor Frey stated that he connected with Dr. Antonio Oftelie in 2020 to start the process of forecasting a vision for safety beyond policing and a forward-looking plan for a comprehensive community safety system for Minneapolis—all leading to this final report which will be presented to the City Council’s Public Health and Safety Committee on Wednesday. In the intervening years since Dr. Oftelie and his team at Leadership for a Networked World at Harvard University began research and work on this report, the mayor and City said that they continued to invest in safety beyond policing and alternatives—most recently setting up the Office of Community Safety (OCS) to coordinate five safety departments on a daily basis.  

OCS’s work supposedly includes managing the growing suite of violence prevention programs and a recently-created pilot—now mainstay—program for unarmed, mental health responses to 911 calls, the Behavioral Crisis Response (BCR) program. The BCR program started in the Office of Performance, Management, and Innovation, and the contract is now transitioning to the Neighborhood Safety Department to continue on within OCS. In last year’s budget cycle, the mayor expanded funding for BCR with a $1.45 million investment in 2023 and a proposed $2.9 million investment in 2024, bringing the ongoing annual investment in this work to $6.4 million by 2024. 

“A comprehensive approach to community safety is the cornerstone of my mission as Community Safety Commissioner,” said Commissioner Alexander. “The recommendations from this report will support our ongoing efforts at the City as we continue to create a new way of delivering community safety, especially as we continue to build out our violence prevention and alternatives work. Our OCS departments have been working hard to support residents, instill trust in the community, and enhance safety services. I have no doubt these recommendations will support us in this critical work ahead in the future.”

The Minneapolis Safe and Thriving Communities Report was created to “promote safer communities through recommendations that bolster preventive services, expand responsive services, develop restorative services, and deliver more fair, equitable, and transparent outcomes to Minneapolis residents,” said city officials in a released statement.

The report’s three pillars guide includes:

  • Preventative services: diversion, intervention, violence prevention 
  • Responsive services: virtual services, community response, and multi-disciplinary response
  • Restorative services: trauma recovery and community resilience programs 

“The Safe and Thriving Communities report is a new vision of how safe and resilient communities are fostered, and it will help Minneapolis become the leader in the nation on transforming public safety,” said Dr. Antonio M. Oftelie, a co-creator of the plan, a Minneapolis-born public safety expert, and leader for a Networked World, a leadership development think tank based at Harvard University. “In the three years since the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolitans have demanded a re-envisioning of public safety, a goal this plan can meet.” 

Minneapolis received grants from the Pohlad, McKnight, Minneapolis, and Joyce foundations to enable the research required for this report in 2021. Since then, Dr. Oftelie and his team said that they have been researching best practices and innovations involving policing and health and human services. Many government partners and community organizations were interviewed and contributed to the work. All partners are listed on page 114 of the final report

Dr. Oftelie has previously given two presentation updates to the City Council since beginning this research, one on Aug. 26, 2021, and one on July 13, 2022. This final report and recommendations will be presented to the Council’s Public Health and Safety committee on Wednesday, July 12.  

Read the report and recommendations.

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