The Potluck

Brooklyn Center mayor unveils new citation policy

By: - September 28, 2021 2:47 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.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott announced a long-delayed new citation and summons policy on Tuesday.

Under the new policy, Brooklyn Center police officers can only issue citations — not make arrests— during misdemeanor traffic stops like the April 11 stop that resulted in former police officer Kimberly Potter shooting and killing Daunte Wright, an unarmed, 20-year-old Black man. The suburb north of Minneapolis saw days of protests after the shooting in which Potter said she mistook her Taser for her gun.

The new policy allows the city’s police officers to cite people for misdemeanors or refer them to public assistance programs and then release them. For gross misdemeanors, the officer can arrest people if required by law or if they’re a threat to public safety. And they can arrest people for felonies, public safety and certain sex and firearm crimes.

City Attorney Troy Gilchrist said officers must document in writing when they depart from the policy.

Elliott called it a first step in the city’s effort to reimagine public safety.

“This step moves us closer to ensuring that there’s more equity in how we conduct public safety,” he said.

Last week, the Reformer wrote about how five months after Wright’s killing, little had changed in Brooklyn Center, illustrating the challenges of reforming public safety, especially in cash-strapped cities.

In May, Elliott proposed an ambitious set of reforms, including a new Office of Community Safety and Violence Prevention that takes a public health approach to crime; a department with unarmed medical workers to respond to certain calls; an unarmed traffic department; and a civilian oversight committee.

Elliott now says April is an “an aspirational timeline to get this work done.”

Brooklyn Center City Manager Reggie Edwards said during a Monday City Council meeting the city budget has been “significantly challenged” since the pandemic and resulting recession, Wright shooting and civil unrest.

Despite these ambitious plans, the city is budgeting just $154,000 toward them this year, and the city’s property tax rate would go down under the preliminary budget passed Monday. Edwards has said the new public safety department is not financially feasible in the near future, and the city would have to eliminate entire departments to do it, according to CCXMedia

Elliott said he’s received funding from foundations to help implement his plan. 

Council Member April Graves said Monday the city also plans to tap into federal American Rescue Act funds, grants and fellowships for a total of about $1 million.

Brooklyn Center spends about 43% of its budget on policing, and Elliott acknowledged the city needs to ensure its spending aligns with its new vision of public safety. The council has authorized funding for up to 49 police officers, and started the year with 44 officers but is down to about 32, with a couple more resignations coming, according to Acting Police Chief Tony Gruenig.

Elliott said police departments across the state and nation are seeing a similar exodus of cops.

“I certainly don’t feel unsafe in my city,” he said of the downsized department. “I think generally the people of Brooklyn Center feel that this is a safe, healthy community.”

The suburb’s crime rate is higher than most of its surrounding communities, and higher than nearly 87% of U.S. cities, according to City-Data.com

Brian Fullman, lead organizer of the Barbershop and Black Congregation Cooperative, praised Brooklyn Center leaders, saying their new citation policy sets the tone for other communities in the state.

“It ignites the community, it sparks the interest of the community, and it encourages them to continue using their voices every step of the way,” he said. “If you continually involve the community, you can’t go wrong.”

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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.

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