The Potluck

Frey public safety commissioner nominee has provoked controversy elsewhere 

By: - July 8, 2022 1:04 pm

Mayor Jacob Frey nominated Cedric Alexander to oversee his proposed Office of Community Safety. Screenshot from City of Minneapolis livestream.

Mayor Jacob Frey’s nominee for the city’s first community safety commissioner has faced scrutiny in previous jobs for alleged sexual harassment and financial conflicts of interest, according to media reports in other cities he’s worked.

Frey tapped Cedric Alexander to oversee the mayor’s proposed Office of Community Safety, which would integrate five departments: 911, the police and fire departments, the Office of Emergency Management, and Neighborhood Safety, formerly known as the Office of Violence Prevention. The Minneapolis City Council has approved hiring a public safety commissioner, but has not yet approved setting up the new community safety department. 

Alexander is the former director of public safety for Dekalb County, Georgia, overseeing police, fire and 911. The population there is about 750,000.

He was accused of sexual harassment by a female officer who said he asked her out during ride-alongs, according to a nonprofit watchdog called Rochester For All. An internal investigation concluded it was a he said/she said situation.

He was also the police chief and later deputy mayor for the City of Rochester, N.Y., where he oversaw the day-to-day operations and long-term planning of more than a dozen departments, including multiple public safety services.

He became Rochester’s deputy mayor in 2017, overseeing eight departments, and the amount of time he spent away from the job was soon scrutinized. 

In his first year on the job, Alexander was gone one day a week, mostly for non-city business, according to public records obtained by Rochester for All. In the space of 25 weeks, he was gone 28 days, seven of which appeared to be on official business. 

They also found conflicts of interest in his dual roles: While deputy mayor of a city that purchases equipment from Taser/Axon, Alexander spoke at an Axon conference.

His numerous speaking engagements — including occasional CNN gigs — were also scrutinized in Georgia, where an ethics board ruled that he could get paid for speaking while director of public safety as long as his topic wasn’t related to his county job, he wasn’t speaking to county contractors, and the group didn’t receive any benefit from the county, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Rochester watchdog group also found Alexander’s executive assistant booked personal travel for him, including a South Africa trip to train police, arranged by government defense contractor Engility Holdings, which was involved in the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal in Iraq.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, viewed by some Republicans as the heir apparent to former President Donald Trump appointed him to the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority in 2019. He was also appointed to former President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Alexander has also done consulting work for the University of Minnesota reviewing their police department’s practices.

Frey said in a press release that Alexander’s qualifications, experience, and vision uniquely aligned with this opportunity to reshape Minneapolis government and public safety. 

“Dr. Alexander has driven reform forward at the highest levels and has effectively led public safety services in major metro areas. He is the right leader for this moment, and I look forward to the hard work ahead.” 

Alexander said during a press conference he intends to make Minneapolis the safest city in the nation, and promised to give police officers the tools they need to do so. 

“It’s not pie-in-the-sky,” he said. “So let’s go get it.”

He also said the city needs to look deeper into potential police officers’ backgrounds, including their social media, to make sure they’re getting “the very best.”

“We gotta look deeper and harder, and that even makes it just that much tougher,” he said.

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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.