Brooklyn Center mayor proposes new public safety agency, ban on arrests during traffic stops

By: - May 8, 2021 12:00 pm

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott holds a press conference on April 14, 2021 to announce the resignation of the city manager and police chief after the police killing of Daunte Wright.

The mayor of Brooklyn Center is proposing a resolution that includes an emergency ban on police officers arresting or searching people for non-moving traffic infractions and nonfelony offenses and warrants.

Brooklyn Center police officers would only be able to issue citations — but not arrest people — during traffic stops like the one on April 11 that resulted in former police officer Kimberly Potter shooting and killing Daunte Wright, an unarmed Black man.

“This resolution comes out of our community, making it very clear that enough is enough,” Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said. “It’s time for real transformative change that is really going to keep everyone in our community safe. And we have the ability to start creating that change now.”

The resolution, which will be considered by the Brooklyn Center City Council at 4 p.m. on Saturday, would begin the process of creating a new public safety department with a public health approach, a new department of unarmed medical workers to respond to certain calls, an unarmed traffic department and a civilian oversight committee.

Elliott said the resolution is the first step in a multi-year process of transforming public safety in the northern Minneapolis suburb that grappled with days of protests after Wright’s shooting in which Potter said she mistook her Taser for her gun.

“This is a starting point for us,” he said. “It’s a starting point for creating the change that we need now.”

The move follows a similar path the Minneapolis City Council began following the police killing of George Floyd last May. The council vowed to replace the police department with a new department of public safety, and is working to put the proposal before voters this fall.

Elliott said he’s “very optimistic” that the council — composed of the mayor and four council members — will pass the resolution, which was the culmination of a series of listening sessions. If it passes, an implementation committee that includes experts on public health-oriented approaches would work on legislation that would come back to the council for action.

The resolution vows to change public safety so police aren’t the only response to every call for help, but it does not call for scrapping the city’s 43-member police department. If passed, the Brooklyn Center police force may not even shrink, Elliott said.

“We think that this will help the police department, these policies, because law enforcement doesn’t want to be responding to mental health crises because they’re just not trained for that, for low-level traffic infractions,” he said. “They are going to be able to better respond to critical situations where their training and skill set will be better utilized.”

He did not have cost estimates for the proposal. The city spends 43% of its general funds on public safety — “a lot of resources” — he said.

Elliott spoke about the resolution in an interview arranged by Local Progress, which says it works with elected officials to advance a racial and economic justice agenda. Elliott said he was a member of Local Progress prior to Wright’s killing, and the city is not paying the group to handle media requests.

The union representing Brooklyn Center police officers did not respond to a request for comment on the mayor’s proposal.

Earlier this week, the union’s acting president, Chuck Valleau, released a statement saying the shooting of Wright devastated both the community and the department.

He offered thoughts and prayers to Wright’s family and friends, and said the department is also grieving for Potter, who was president of the police union until she resigned after killing Wright.

“She served the community for 25 years and we love her as a sister,” Valleau wrote. “It is impossible for me to grasp the overwhelming emotional burden of taking a life after dedicating your career to protecting life.”

He said the union is willing to participate in any forum, meeting, or discussion with the community “permitted by our city administration” to help improve their relationship with residents.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.