Minneapolis nominates veteran LEO to lead new community safety office

The community safety commissioner will oversee a new department that aims to better coordinate police, fire and other services


By Liz Navratil
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Cedric Alexander, a veteran law enforcement officer with expertise in psychology, could become Minneapolis' first community safety commissioner.

Mayor Jacob Frey announced Thursday afternoon that he was nominating Alexander to serve in the new post. The commissioner is expected to oversee a new department that aims to better coordinate police, fire, violence prevention and other safety services. He would report directly to Frey.

Mayor Jacob Frey announced Thursday that he was nominating Cedric Alexander, a veteran law enforcement officer with expertise in psychology, as the city's first community safety commissioner.
Mayor Jacob Frey announced Thursday that he was nominating Cedric Alexander, a veteran law enforcement officer with expertise in psychology, as the city's first community safety commissioner. (Anthony Souffle)

In his first public remarks since his nomination was announced, Alexander said he believes the city "has the opportunity more than anything else to be the new brand of what policing looks like in America.

"You have the opportunity to do that here, and that is my goal, but it has to be all of our goals from all of our respective goals that we play."

The commissioner's hiring has been at the center of recent conversations about how Minneapolis officials should best seek to fulfill a promise to transform community safety in response to the outcry that followed George Floyd's murder. The City Council will also need to sign off on Alexander's selection.

According to public biographies, Alexander, 68, spent more than 40 years working in law enforcement, beginning his training in Florida in the 1970s. He went on to work for a variety of local, state and federal agencies. He served as the police chief in Rochester, New York, and as public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia, near Atlanta. Alexander was a member of then-President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and previously served as president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

According to a story on the American Psychological Association's website, Alexander earned a master's degree in marriage and family therapy and a doctorate in clinical psychology, both in the 1990s. He has been featured as a law enforcement expert on national news networks, runs a consulting company that has provided guidance to the University of Minnesota and other agencies, and frequently serves as a public speaker.

In one public event last fall, Alexander said law enforcement officials need to "rethink" policing in America.

"It needs to be re-engineered," he said. "We have American people, not just in Black and brown communities, but across this entire country that are saying that something different has to happen in American policing."

Alexander has also been assisting California-based Public Sector Search & Consulting Inc. with the search for the next Minneapolis police chief. Amelia Huffman has been serving as the city's interim chief since former Chief Medaria Arradondo retired earlier this year.

City officials last week overwhelmingly signed off on plans to create a job for a community safety commissioner, but they still need to pass a separate ordinance to set up a new Office of Community Safety itself. That process is expected to take weeks, include a public hearing, and wrap in mid-August.

Frey has previously said he believes the selection of a new commissioner will be "arguably the most consequential hire I'll ever make" and he hopes the change will improve the accountability and efficiency of police and other safety services.

Council Member Robin Wonsley, the sole person to vote against the position when it came before council last month, questioned whether creating the new post would achieve those goals, or whether it would further dilute accountability for safety services.

"This proposal has so many gaping holes that we are being asked to ignore," she said at the time.

The job posting seeking a commissioner said the city was searching for someone who could "provide strategic planning and direction on a comprehensive overall community safety approach for Minneapolis." The new leader will be "a very visible public figure and will be subject to scrutiny and possibly dangerous situations," the posting said.

The city said it was seeking someone with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, public safety, public health, public administration or a "closely related field" and someone with at least 10 years of experience "leading a complex organization or function where accountability for meeting goals and achieving results is valued." The job comes with a salary ranging from roughly $295,000 to $350,000.

Alexander said during a news conference Thursday that he hopes this new role will allow him to serve the needs of both the city's residents and its first responders. He said he hopes the new position will ensure that all of the city's public safety agencies — not just police — have someone they can regularly check in with on pressing issues.

"We know the history of this community before George Floyd. We know George Floyd is still very much a part of our lives," Alexander said. "People still feel the pain around it, but the most important thing here is that we never forget the history and the challenges but what we have to look forward to now is a future of change. The community says it wants something different."

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