The new commissioner meets the community


Cedric Alexander, Commissioner of
Community Safety

Commissioner of Public Safety Cedric Alexander is wasting no time getting out to meet the communities of Minneapolis. On Aug. 25 he was introduced to the Phelps community at Phelps Park by Andrea Jenkins, City Council president and Ward 8 council member. It was Alexander’s third week on the job.
Alexander and Jenkins were joined by interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman, 3rd Precinct Inspector Jose Gomez and a number of representatives of the community who are involved in the plans for transforming the intersection of 38th and Chicago, also known as George Floyd Square. The auditorium was full, with nearly 100 attendees.
Commissioner Alexander made it clear that he intends to get “the bad guys off the streets, especially those committing violent crimes.” He shared that when he makes this statement he often hears, “Good luck!” Alexander admitted it is an uphill climb and that “more than luck is needed.” He spoke about the shortage of cops on the force, stating, “We must fight with what we have, including community involvement.”
Chief Huffman began by saying, “I love Minneapolis.” She presented a five-page document outlining MPD initiatives and corresponding links and websites where additional information can be obtained. The initiatives include various new training programs in intervention, de-escalation, leadership development and use of force. Huffman also informed us about new software that will allow for improved record keeping and data improvement, collaboration with UCMT (Unity Community Mediation Team) from the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities, restrictions on the number of hours employees may work, a new discipline matrix, new studies of existing protocols, grant funding for early intervention, and vendor selection for trauma services. She also listed open positions (such as Community Partnership Liaison and Communication Specialist) and current hiring initiatives. Huffman mentioned the high number of calls regarding shots fired (many automatic), gunshot wounds and calls to 911, followed by a description of efforts occurring to address this violence such as federal and FBI involvement. Recently, 120 guns and 4,000 Fentanyl pills were removed from the streets over a 15-day period.
Inspector Gomez was questioned about recent homicides at 38th and Chicago on Aug. 7 and Aug. 14. He said the victims were not from Minneapolis and that “several suspects” had been identified. Gomez said that the 3rd Precinct has new recruits coming onto the force and that cameras are installed at hot spots (high crime areas). He acknowledged that homicides are up. (In the 3rd Precinct there have been 17 homicides through Sept. 1 of this year.) Gomez underscored what Commissioner Alexander has been saying: “We need your help; we need involved partners in the community to curb crime.”
The meeting took a turn when a gentleman at the back of the gymnasium spoke up, saying it was time for the panel to hear from residents in the neighborhood. He invited the panel to listen and asked anyone who wanted to speak to approach the microphone. He asked them to keep it short and pose just one question to any member of the panel. Many attendees got in line and the meeting went into overtime.
Here are some of the comments:
“We never see police at 38th and Chicago, why aren’t they doing outreach there?”
“We do not want reports, we want action!”
“I know you have plans but what are you going to do NOW about the violence?”
“Why hasn’t the intersection been cleared?”
“Are you prepared to jail youth? We have a revolving door of re-offenders under age.”
“Why haven’t any representatives of the city apologized for what happened on May 25, 2020?”
“You can’t arrest your way out of poverty.”
“Why isn’t anyone talking about affordable housing, jobs and health care?”
“38th and Chicago is a hoax. It is no longer a place of protest; it’s a place of crime. People are dealing drugs, using crack, running guns.”
“I recently had to hide between two garbage cans to avoid gunfire. My family will not visit me because they are afraid of the neighborhood.”
“My 6-year-old son will only sleep in the basement. He is afraid to sleep on the ground floor for fear of gunshots.”
Several community members were vociferous regarding their experiences at the scene of recent homicides at or near 38th and Chicago. “It was awful. The police were aloof.” “Amidst trauma one officer said to me, ‘People die every day.’ How cold!”
Commissioner Alexander closed with an emotional apology to the neighborhood for what it’s endured, promising to do what he can to improve the situation. Chief Huffman agreed to look into the callousness displayed by the officer(s) on Aug. 14 and “apply discipline if and where appropriate.”

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