Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is proposing a new Office of Community Safety to oversee five key city departments — including MPD.
Frey revealed his proposal for a new government structure Tuesday, a change Minneapolis voters approved via a ballot question in the 2021 elections. The charter amendment, often referred to as the "strong mayor" amendment, explicitly defined the mayor as the city's chief executive with full administrative control over city departments. It also reduced the power of the city council, which is now tasked solely with legislative responsibilities.
But what this rearranged city structure might actually look like wasn't specified. Frey's recommendations, which he presented to the Committee of the Whole Tuesday, offer an initial glimpse of the mayor's vision for a more unified executive government.
The plan would create four direct reports to the mayor, including a new Office of Community Safety. The head of this office (currently dubbed the Chief Community Safety Officer, though all names and titles could change) would then oversee five emergency and community services, including the Minneapolis Police Department.
It is, in some ways, similar to elements of the failed public safety ballot question, which Frey mentioned during Tuesday's meeting. That charter amendment would have created a Department of Public Safety that would have replaced MPD, headed by a commissioner tasked with overseeing various public safety services, including policing.
Frey came out against the ballot question, but has said he is in favor of creating an overarching public safety department while maintaining MPD.
The newly proposed Office of Community Safety would include four additional departments alongside police: Minneapolis Emergency Communications, the Fire Department, the Emergency Management Department and a Neighborhood Safety Department.
"This is a major moment for unity in the city of Minneapolis," Frey said during the meeting. "An opportunity to fundamentally redefine our local government's role in upholding and developing community safety, while establishing clear lines of accountability for the important work of keeping Minneapolis residents safe."
He argued this proposal brings together "items of agreement and common ground" between those on both sides of Ballot Question 2, saying: "We can come together and agree on an integrated approach."
Frey's statement that the new structure may placate those calling for the replacement of MPD following the murder of George Floyd may be somewhat undercut by moves taken this week to approve a new police union contract that would give MPD officers raises and $7,000 bonuses, but is lacking measures designed to improve accountability and discipline for officer misconduct.
The other direct reports as outlined in the mayor's plan would be:
- Chief of staff: Providing policy development and oversight on behalf of the mayor's office.
- The Office of the City Attorney: Which comprises civil and criminal divisions.
- The Office of Public Service: A consolidation of existing departments, including Civil Rights, Public Works, Community Development and Regulatory Services, Communications and Engagement Services, and Administrative Services.
The mayor's proposal is based on recommendations from the Government Structure Workgroup he formed shortly after his re-election. The changes, he argues, will greatly improve communications between various departments.
“Our form of government sets the foundation for how our city will function for generations to come,” said Frey in a release. “We set out to recommend a government structure that is durable but responsive to the City’s future needs, efficient and equitable in delivering city services to all residents, and that improves clarity of communication both across the enterprise and with residents and businesses served by the City."
The Committee of the Whole did not take any action on the plan Tuesday, other than to file a report, and will discuss it further at the April 12 meeting.