Brooklyn Park mayor addresses ‘rocky road’ to find violence interrupters

Brooklyn Park mayor talks about violence interrupters

Brooklyn Park mayor talks about violence interrupters

Days after the city locked in a long-term deal with a company to handle their violence interruption work, the mayor of Brooklyn Park spoke to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about the rocky road it took to get to this point.

For the rest of the year, The Village BP will be working alongside law enforcement, working to prevent crime and provide resources to those in need as part of the role as the city’s violence interrupters.

RELATED: Brooklyn Park picks violence interrupter after pausing last agreement because of ‘pending state investigation’

It’s a deal worth $600,000 and almost went to an unlicensed security company that, according to the Brooklyn Park Police Department, is part of a pending state investigation.

“We made a decision based on the facts that were in front of us,” Hollies Winston, mayor of Brooklyn Park, said about a March city council decision to select Men In Black Security as the city’s violence interruption group.

But, through our reporting, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS learned that Men In Black Security is not licensed with the state, despite offering those services on their website when it made its pitch to the city in March.

RELATED: Brooklyn Park ‘pausing’ moving forward with unlicensed security company to handle violence interruption work

Also, campaign finance records show Mayor Winston received a monetary donation from the owner of the company in 2021 — during that March meeting, the mayor pushed back against concerns about his connection to the company.

“It’s no longer a concern because Men and Black wasn’t chosen,” Mayor Winston said to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS when asked to respond to those concerns, adding: “For us, it’s very much moving forward to keep the city safe.”

Moving forward to the city’s May 22 city council meeting, Brooklyn Park police chief Mark Bruley shared more about why the deal with Men In Black Security was never done.

“We had learned of a pending state investigation involving Men In Black, revolving around their security business,” Chief Bruley told the council and mayor.

He went on to say the city entered into a temporary contract with The Village BP — as reported, that group now holds the contract to handle the violence intervention work. Chief Bruley added The Village BP is familiar to the city as it was part of Men In Black Security’s original pitch to Brooklyn Park.

When asked if the two groups are still connected, Mayor Winston said they are not.

“I think it was made very clear that [The Village BP] cannot subcontract with [Men In Black] going forward because of the information that we learned,” Mayor Winston said.

The founder and chief executive officer of The Village BP, Tekoa Cochran, is backing that up.

“I don’t have a partnership with Men In Black, and they’re their own organization, and I’m my own organization,” Cochran said.

Despite the journey it took to get here, Cochran said she and her team are ready for the work.

“It was a rocky road,” Cochran said, “But the thing is, when I was called upon to fill the shoes until the city, you know, figured out who they were going to go with, I just stood up as a community member, as all community members should, and I rose to the occasion.”

Both Chief Bruley and Mayor Winston say they have confidence in their new partner.

“We’re happy with, you know, folks, we’ve chosen to go forward in that role just because of what they’re bringing to the table,” Mayor Winston said.

As part of their pitch, The Village BP said on top of being on the street working to prevent violence, they’ll be connecting with people in need with resources that can help. They also said they’ll be putting a big focus on data collection to make sure their work and progress can be tracked.