Community safety services at MPD’s 3rd Precinct ‘not contingent’ on site selection

City officials react to 3rd Precinct uncertainty

City officials react to 3rd Precinct uncertainty

Minneapolis Community Safety Commissioner Todd Barnette on Wednesday said there is a “vision” for what the future 3rd Precinct could look like as both a police department and a community safe haven.

Asked for examples, he mused about a possible food shelf, social services and recreation spaces, before making it clear that he wants the ideas to come from the people who live in the 3rd Precinct.

“I think that there’s consensus around having the community safety center. I just believe that there are some details that people want to know. And what I was trying to explain in front of the [City] Council was, with the community engagement, that gives us more specifics,” he said.

“That’s what I was trying to get across yesterday,” he continued.

The conversation came on the heels of another delay in the precinct site selection process on Tuesday. A group of six Minneapolis City Council members who voted against the latest location to be endorsed by Mayor Jacob Frey at 2633 Minnehaha Avenue said they first want to see a plan for the alternative safety services that were promised will be included in the rebuild.

Asked whether he thought public engagement should have started sooner in regard to public safety alternatives, now three and a half years after the former 3rd Precinct building burned, Barnette said, “I can’t really say what should have happened sooner.”

“I can talk about being appointed on Sept. 11. And from there, I can tell you what the discussions have been, and I think the mayor has put forward to Council this concept of the community safety center,” he continued.

That public engagement will begin “as soon as we can,” he continued.

Differing from the council members in opposition to the sites proposed to date, Barnette believes the location should be chosen first, because “it makes it easier for us to know who the residents are there, to start the engagement.”

Asked, Barnette said the types of community services that could be included are not contingent on which site is ultimately approved.

“The location doesn’t make a difference,” he continued. “The [community] safety center is there. I don’t think anybody disagrees with that.”

The remaining six council members present at Tuesday’s committee meeting, who supported buying the 2633 Minnehaha Avenue site, largely agreed and/or voted in favor of the option because of the lower price tag and completion time said to be associated with it.

City Council Public Health & Safety Committee Chair LaTrisha Vetaw (Ward 4) spoke passionately about the need for police to have a physical space now in the area they serve.

“They’re not even in the precinct,” she said ahead of the vote. “They need a workplace. They need a productive workplace, they need somewhere where they can go and process these things.”

Opposing members said the police department portion of the precinct shouldn’t open without the community safety center services also there on day one.

“Right. That’s fine,” Barnette reacted on Wednesday. “I don’t think that should be a drawback to what site it’s on.”

The full City Council is expected to take up the 2633 Minnehaha Avenue site on Thursday, along with a second proposed location from Council Member Jason Chavez (Ward 9) at 3716 Cheatham Avenue.

Chavez’s option would be about twice as expensive and take five times as long to build, according to Barnette.

It is, however, more centrally located within the 3rd Precinct boundaries and is near transit, Chavez said on Wednesday.

“To me, it means that it will encompass MPD, public safety alternatives, and community resources on day one,” Chavez wrote in a comment to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “We can build this site and vision from the ground up, and that’s what this site offers.”

Chavez provided additional examples of what could be inside the future community safety center, including behavioral crisis response teams, violence interrupters and “space for mentorship programs for youth.”

Barnette was optimistic that a site would be approved on Thursday.