Minneapolis City Council discusses Harvard-commissioned plan for public safety

Minneapolis City Council discusses plan on public safety

Minneapolis City Council discusses plan on public safety

Minneapolis City Council got a chance Wednesday to question how a “highly anticipated” public safety plan will work in practice.

The 140-page report from Harvard University lays out a plan to re-imagine how to respond to 911 calls, complimenting the consent decree the city has with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, as well as the one expected with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“It’s a transformational roadmap that is very much complimentary to consent decrees, and I would go as far as to say provides a template sort of saying, you can put the consent decrees underneath this for overall transformation,” said Dr. Antonio Oftelie of Harvard University. Though the plan was written at Harvard, Oftelie is a South Minneapolis native, giving him some stake in the plan’s outcome.

The basis of the plan is that when someone calls 911 in Minneapolis, there will be more real-time response options for dispatch beyond police or other first responders. This could include civilians well-versed in specific traumas or places.

City Council member Robin Wonseley voiced skepticism at Wednesday’s meeting.

“There has been a number of us, a select few of us, that have also echoed these same ideas,” she said. “And right now, it’s kind of hard for residents to believe or take us serious because they’ve heard this promise so often.”

In response to some of the pushback, Oftelie agreed that there has been innovation in Minneapolis, but not enough. He said that the biggest thing that is missing currently is collaboration between philanthropic groups, city leadership and 911 dispatch — an area where training needs to start as soon as possible.

“With a budget approval and then this turnkey of five steps that we’ve got to get a plan to make them happen in 2023,” he said.

Toward the end of Wednesday’s meeting, City Council members said they’re ready to roll up their sleeves.

“I hope that none of us here are here to divide people with this report but to bring us all together around the planet, and it is clear to me that it is much much bigger than our city,” said City Council Vice President Linea Palmisano.