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Minneapolis City Council prepares to vote on eliminating MPD PIO, some call to postpone vote

KSTP
Updated: July 23, 2020 10:25 PM
Created: July 23, 2020 09:46 PM

The Minneapolis City Council is scheduled to vote Friday on eliminating the public information officer position from the Minneapolis Police Department.

It comes after a unanimous vote by the budget committee Wednesday to cut funding within the department.

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The release of all information to the public would become the responsibility of the city communications department.

However, some are calling for the city council to slow down.

"I think they've acted quickly and I think they've acted in a very short-sighted way," said Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. "This is not the time to be shutting down modes of communication to the public about what the police are up to."

Kirtley said she thinks the move could backfire on the council, saying, "Any attempt to make it basically appear they want to control the flow of information more than it already is will create the impression of secrecy and that's not going to help."

She added that eliminating the position could curtail the real-time information journalists and the public have been getting, assuming the city communications department won't be as responsive on a 24/7 basis.

"I think that there is a need for people that are really trained in handling law enforcement matters, but random communications persons, however schooled he or she may be, is not going to be really as effective," Kirtley said. "And what that means is the public will not get information and trust will be eroded even more than it already has been."

Kirtley urged the city council to "put on the brakes" and postpone the vote until they're able to consult with journalists and other interested members of the public.

In addition to crisis communications, Minneapolis Police Department public information officers are also responsible for training videos, social media accounts, community relations, the CrimeStoppers program and providing crime statistics for reporters and the courts.


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