The Potluck

Brooklyn Center reforms stall amid budget concerns

By: - September 22, 2021 12:30 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.

In May, Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott offered himself up for interviews on an ambitious set of reforms he was about to lay out for the City Council in the wake of the police killing of Daunte Wright.

Local Progress, which works with elected officials to advance a racial and economic justice agenda, arranged interviews about his plan, which included an emergency ban on police officers arresting or searching people for non-moving traffic infractions and non-felony offenses and warrants.

Under the proposal, Brooklyn Center police officers would only be able to issue citations — but not arrest or search people — during non-felony traffic stops like the April 11 stop that resulted in former police officer Kimberly Potter shooting and killing Wright, an unarmed Black man. The suburb north of Minneapolis grappled for days with protests after Wright’s shooting in which Potter said she mistook her Taser for her gun.

“It’s time for real transformative change that is really going to keep everyone in our community safe,” Elliott told the Reformer in May. “And we have the ability to start creating that change now.”

About five months later, however, it appears little has changed in Brooklyn Center, illustrating the challenges of reforming public safety, especially in cash-strapped cities.

While the City Council went on to pass Elliott’s proposed resolution, by mid-August the traffic stop change still hadn’t gone into effect; Elliott told WCCO the city was still working out the details, and his goal was to fully implement the resolution by April, contingent on the council approving funding.

Elliott has said the resolution was the first step in a multi-year process. He is seeking to create 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.

But that oversight committee hasn’t been created yet.

Elliott claimed the fire department now responds to medical calls instead of police, but a police commander told WCCO both police and fire are responding to medical calls, as they long have. A city spokesperson said Elliott is unavailable for an interview but plans a press conference next week to give an update on the implementation of the resolution, specifically the cite and summons policy. 

CCXMedia reported that during a Sept. 1 work session, Brooklyn Center Acting City Manager Reggie Edwards said the proposed public safety department was not financially feasible in the near future. Elliott argued that the council should find the money to fund his agenda, the city manager said they’d have to eliminate entire departments to do that. 

But Edwards argued creating a new division called the Office of Community Safety and Violence Prevention — for $154,000 — would satisfy the spirit of the resolution, according to CCXMedia.

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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.