Brooklyn Center mayor proposes policing reform, including unarmed traffic enforcement

The resolution includes sweeping changes to policing in the wake of Daunte Wright's death.
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About a month after a Brooklyn Center police officer fatally shot Daunte Wright, the city's mayor is proposing sweeping changes to the police department.

Mayor Mike Elliott on Saturday proposed the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention resolution, named after two people who were killed by Brooklyn Center police officers. 

The resolution, which includes a proposal to have unarmed city staff members respond to mental health calls and some traffic stops, is based on listening sessions the City Council has held since Wright's death last month.

Elliott said the proposal gives the city a roadmap for moving forward on police reform, noting it'll take a year or more to actually implement, according to KSTP.

"Statistically, if we don't get to work right now, we're going to have another killing before this all gets implemented," he said, via KSTP.

Policing reform proposals 

The proposal would restructure public safety in the city by creating a new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention that would oversee the police and fire departments. It would also oversee two new departments created under this proposal: the traffic enforcement department and the community response department.

The proposed traffic enforcement and community response departments would send unarmed city personnel to provide service in situations that include mental health distress and non-moving traffic violations.

This would allow police officers to "focus their time, training and expertise on serious threats to the immediate safety of our residents," the resolution states, noting that relying on armed officers during such situations has "in some circumstances resulted in escalation, harm and the tragic and potentially unavoidable loss of life for our residents, including Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler."

Wright was fatally shot by police on April 11 during a traffic stop after he was pulled over for expired tabs, police said. Now-former officer Kim Potter is charged with second-degree manslaughter in his death. Dimock-Heisler, who had Autism, was fatally shot by police on Aug. 31, 2019, during a mental health crisis. Charges were not brought against the officers involved

The mayor's proposed changes would ensure the correct response at the right time in order to keep people safe, city documents show.

The mayor's proposal would also create a Community Safety and Violence Prevention Committee, which would be made up of residents and public health experts, to allow residents to have a say in what is needed to make them feel safe. 

The permanent committee would ensure community input into all implementation plans; review and provide comments on police union contract before and during contract negotiations; make recommendations to the City Council on how to change and/or initiate programs or policies to improve community safety and prevent violence; and review and make recommendations regarding police use of force during protests and otherwise. 

The resolution would also prohibit the use of deadly force in certain situations, including firing on moving vehicles, and prohibit certain uses of force/other policing tactics during First Amendment protests and assemblies, as well as require de-escalation and exhaustion of reasonable alternatives before using deadly force. 

Lastly, the proposal would make immediate police policy changes, including a citywide "citation and summons" policy that would require police officers to issue citations only and prohibit custodial arrests for low-level offenses, such as non-moving traffic infractions, non-felony offenses and non-felony warrants, according to Elliott's overview of the resolution.

Mayor Elliott says while the rest of the resolution is being fully implemented, this piece would prevent further harm and ensure the safety of all residents. 

In order to implement all the proposed changes in the resolution, it would also create a Community Safety and Violence Prevention Implementation Committee, made up of residents and experts appointed by the mayor. 

This implementation committee would create policies and guidelines outlined in the resolution and would be directed to present its recommendations to the City Council within 180 days. 

What's next

The mayor's resolution was scheduled for a vote on Saturday but the vote was pushed back after City Council members asked for more time to review the new resolution, the Star Tribune said.

The City Council could discuss the resolution at its meeting Monday night or at its special meeting scheduled for Saturday.

Elliott and community members called on the City Council to quickly approve the resolution.

"To get to the point where we can pass this resolution, we need to do it as if there was an emergency and people were at the PD protesting again — we need to have that level of urgency," Elliott said, according to MPR News. "This cannot afford to have the same process as every other item in our city."

The mayor said this resolution is just the beginning of a "path to change," noting there will be more community conversations and City Council votes as plans for reform are finalized and implemented, MPR said. 

There were several speakers at Saturday's meeting, many supporting the changes but some urging caution. 

Among those was Tom Thompson, a retired assistant police chief who spoke on behalf of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership. He called the proposal "cutting edge" but urged caution on part of the proposal, questioning if having unarmed civilians enforcing traffic violations would mean that'd be conducting traffic stops, noting traffics stops are some of the "most dangerous" situations for officers, according to MPR News.

Here's video of Saturday's meeting:

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