Frey’s pick for community safety head faces the public ahead of confirmation vote

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The Minneapolis City Council held a public hearing Tuesday to learn more about Dr. Cedric Alexander — the man Mayor Jacob Frey nominated to oversee the city’s new Office of Community Safety.

The forum lasted well into the late afternoon at Minneapolis City Hall as Alexander faced questioning from council members on his vision for public safety and policing. He needs to convince at least seven of the council’s 13 members to approve his confirmation when they take up a vote Thursday.

“I’m here to help you,” Alexander said during the hearing. “No, I’m not God. I’m not Batman.”

Frey’s nominee comes with decades of experience in law enforcement across the country. He also served on President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Alexander says he’s not trying to become the next police chief, but his vision for public safety change and reform would start in the commissioner’s office.

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“I don’t have allegiances or alliances to nobody,” he said. “I’ll make that clear, nobody. What I’m looking is to make sure we do it the right way — constitutionally, legally, ethically.”

Council Member Robin Wonsley called out the mayor’s decision to try and fill the commissioner role before clarifying the focus of the Office of Community Safety.

“It is illogical to appoint someone as a head of an office before we determine what the programs will be that’s going to be included in that offices,” Wonsley said.

Longtime community activist Lisa Clemons of the anti-violence group A Mother’s Love recounted for the council the shooting she and her children had experienced earlier in the day in north Minneapolis.

“I rode right into a shootout,” she said. “My kids and I couldn’t move, I couldn’t get my car turned around to get out of there with my kids in car.”

Clemons told the council there’s an urgent need to address crime in the community.

“Let’s be real about what’s happening the street,” she said. “Ya’ll can play the politics game in here all you want here. I’m telling you what’s real because I’m in it.”

A couple of residents questioned the $300,000 salary for the position, which would be the highest of any city employee. However, one resident pointed out the Office of Community Safety would oversee five departments.

As the commissioner, picking the next police chief is a top priority. A new chief would be named within two to three months.

Alexander said, “Well, it’s not a matter of being quick. We have to be very slow and methodical and make sure everybody has a chance to apply both externally and internally.”

Alexander and Frey state that the mayor has the final say before presenting his choice to the city council for final approval, but it will be collaborative between the mayor and Alexander.

Frey commented about convincing some undecided votes to vote “yes” for Alexander.

“I think the City Council recognized what is ever-obvious that Cedric Alexander has the credentials, the experience, the resume’ but most important the leadership qualities to take the next steps for our city. This is a very important time.”