Minn. city to vote on $1.3M plan for alternative public safety programs

Critics of the Brooklyn Center proposal say it falls short of meaningful change

By Alex Chhith
Star Tribune

BROOKLYN CENTER — A plan to fund alternative public safety programs in Brooklyn Center encountered another hurdle Monday night.

After a presentation from the city manager, Mayor Mike Elliott said he was disappointed that a director for a new public safety department was not explicitly budgeted as outlined by the original resolution that the City Council passed in April.

The council met Monday night to vote on whether to spend $1.3 million for a new department that would oversee the city's Police Department. The council was still debating the measure mid-evening.

"We have made this commitment with our community, and they came out and spoke passionately about the need to have this resolution and that they supported this resolution" Elliott said. "Moving forward with a structure that isn't what the resolution outlined undermines the trust with the public because we have said one thing and now we are doing something different."

The updated budget would cost the city about $600,000, according to city documents. The city would freeze three police officer positions totaling about $303,114 and increase its lodging tax to bring in an additional $52,500.

Grants would cover $725,000 for the city's traffic enforcement department, for unarmed workers to enforce nonmoving traffic violations and for its mental health response teams.

Some people raised other concerns that the proposal fell short of the original resolution's vision, called the the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Act. Among the concerns: The Police Department would lack accountability because the office that oversees it reports to the city manager and not directly to the council, and a 12-hour workday instead of a 24-hour workday for the mental health response teams.

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"I have contemplated … to ask for my son's name to be taken off this resolution," said Katie Wright, Daunte Wright's mother. "I don't want my son's name on a resolution that is not going to be effective, that is going to cause so much adversity in the community and that people are not in support of."

The vote comes as former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter's trial began last week. Opening statements are expected no later than Wednesday. She faces one count each of first- and second-degree manslaughter for fatally shooting Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, during a traffic stop on April 11.

The vote comes after the City Council was divided about how much money the city should be spending on alternative safety programs amid a looming deadline to submit its budget for the next year.

The city scaled back how many vacant police positions would pay for the alternative safety programs in 2022 from 14 down to three after backlash from residents, police organizations and some City Council members.

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