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

Brooklyn Park violence interrupters

Brooklyn Park violence interrupters

The city of Brooklyn Park says it’s pausing plans to partner with a security company 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS learned is not licensed with the state.

The deal was close to being done as during a March city council meeting, the mayor and council members selected Men In Black Security to handle its violence interruption work.

Describing themselves as specialists in violence de-escalation and at one point stressing they’re “not security,” Men In Black Security was one of three groups that presented to the city during that council meeting about why they should be selected.

“Our objective is to again protect and preserve the community, businesses, and the lives within that community,” Rashaud Umaun of Men In Black Security said to city leaders.

Following the presentations and time for questions, the mayor and city council selected Men In Black Security — it’s a deal worth $650,000, but the city tells us the contract isn’t signed.

In a statement, Mayor Hollies Winston says, “I and my Council colleagues recently became are of new information. As a result, we are taking a pause and considering our options.”

That information could include records found by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

The company is currently registered as Men In Black Security LLC with the Secretary of State and currently offers security services on its website — highlighting their personal clients can receive “home security” and “personal body security.”

But, according to the Minnesota Private Detective and Protective Agency Services board, the company is not licensed to do that. The state denied its application to provide “armed and unarmed security service and expertise to private and public clients” in 2021.

“It was determined that the individual involved did not have the requisite clean enough slate, in other words, they had a conviction for a weapons violation on their record,” Rick Hodsdon, chair for the state licensing board, said, adding: “If you’ve been convicted of those crimes, you cannot obtain a license.”

“It’s a matter of public safety, to ensure they’re doing a quality job and are properly trained and vetted,” he added.

Also, during that March city council meeting, questions and concerns were raised surrounding Mayor Winston’s connection to Men In Black Security and whether they were paid to work for him during his campaign, in which he said, “What I will say is this, [Men In Black Security] volunteered. I wasn’t mayor at the time,” Winston said.

Campaign finance reports show Mayor Winston received a donation from the owner of the Men In Black Security in 2021.

Men In Black Security did not respond to our request for an interview but did send the following.

Men In Black Security is a service that provides de-escalation, our objective is community engagement, building a rapport and being a hub for resources…we are not a security service, but a service for the community.

A Mother’s Love Initiative and Minnesota Acts Now (MAN) were the other two groups that tried to get the city contract.

“This is very troubling,” Bishop Harding Smith of MAN said about these developments.

Bishop Smith says he had the job before the city decided to change course.  

“It’s very troubling that this group will come in and we don’t know nothing about them,” Smith said of Men In Black Security. “You know, something doesn’t smell right.”

The Brooklyn Park Police Department has credited MAN’s work with reducing crime — telling 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in November 2022: “Minnesota Acts Now has been one of the most meaningful and impactful changes that this community has ever seen.”

Smith hopes the pause the city currently has on violence interrupters does not last long.

“To keep this city safe we got to be hands-on, we don’t have time to take a pause, we don’t have time to lose another life,” Smith said.

Seeing how the city does not currently have this type of work on the streets, the BPPD sent the following statement.

Over the past several years the Brooklyn Park Police Department has worked closely with violence interruption and intervention resources. Partnering with these resources has benefitted the community by making it safer and has also benefitted our department which has faced unprecedented staffing challenges. While disappointing that we do not currently have intervention work happening in an official capacity, rest assured that the men and women of the Brooklyn Park Police Department are working tirelessly to keep this community safe, just as we always have. We work closely with residents, businesses and other community leaders to deploy resources effectively and efficiently. We have a robust data collection and analysis system that helps us understand crime trends and respond accordingly with police resources. Over the past several weeks we have adjusted our staffing to account for the lack of violence interruption work and have added personnel to ensure that the residents, businesses owners and visitors receive the best possible service.

Mayor Winston’s full statement reads as follows.

“While we were impressed with Men in Black’s plan for the community, I and my Council colleagues recently became aware of new information. As a result, we are taking a pause and considering our options,” said Mayor Hollies Winston. “Violence prevention work is incredibly important to our community, and we have to get it right. The people of Brooklyn Park deserve to feel safe in every part of our city.”