Public opinion is mixed on police presence after George Floyd
Residents and business owners who participated in two city-sponsored meetings last week regarding the future of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct expressed raucous displeasure that the city is even considering such an idea. Roughly 100 people attended the business owners-only meeting on April 11, and around 60 people attended the meeting on Thursday, April 13, which was open to all city residents. Organizers did not respond to questions as to why they didn’t prioritize those who lived in the Third Precinct area.
The discussion comes three years after the precinct was abandoned amid unrest resulting from George Floyd’s murder at the hands of former Third Precinct police officer Derek Chauvin. The Third Precinct has operated out of the City of Lakes building in downtown Minneapolis ever since.
This is not the first time the city has tried to bring the Third Precinct back to the neighborhood. They considered leasing a temporary site at 26th and Minnehaha in 2020. The city withdrew the plan after protesters demonstrated not just outside of the potential site, but also at the Lake Minnetonka home of the owner of the site.
The city said they looked at over 20 sites within the Third Precinct area. They considered five criteria, which included being within the Third Precinct boundaries; having a minimum of a 1.5-acre parcel to accommodate building size and two entry and exit points; in an area properly zoned for use and height; and easily accessible by the community.
The city also wants the site to be centrally located, accessible by transit, with space to expand, two blocks from residential housing, have fiber-optic connectivity, and be on land the city already owns. They also want to avoid being near rail lines and will take into consideration whether or not construction would involve demolition and environmental remediation.
The criteria ruled out many sites, particularly sites along Hiawatha Avenue. At press time, the MSR was unable to obtain the list of sites the city is considering.
The city has ultimately arrived at two prospective sites—2600 Minnehaha and 3000 Minnehaha, where the existing precinct building sits abandoned, fortified with cement blocks and a barbed-wire fence mounted on jersey barriers.
At both meetings, people heckled city officials while expressing frustration, with many of them visibly angry, some crying, over the two choices they were offered and that the city hasn’t done anything to address how Third Precinct officers treated them.
At the Midtown Global Market meeting last Thursday, MPD Homicide Detective Rick Zimmerman testified as to why the precinct needs to be back in the Third Precinct and not outside the area. “When the community calls 911, they’ve been shot, they need help from the police, they shouldn’t have to wait for half an hour or 45 minutes or longer because the cops have to come from downtown all the way out to 48th and Hiawatha,” Zimmerman said, while being heckled by a disgruntled crowd. He subsequently stormed out of the meeting.
Chiffon Williams, a 34-year Powderhorn resident who went to both meetings, agrees and believes the Third Precinct should return to where it was, at Lake and Minnehaha. “It’s convenient being on Lake Street, and we need help. We need help bad,” said Williams, who believes having the Third Precinct in the neighborhood helps police officers get to know the community. “[It’s] a waste of money and [being housed downtown] a ways away from where they should be serving the area that they get paid for.”
People at both meetings questioned the decision-making process and whether or not the Third Precinct area even needs police presence. “[The city was] asking questions that should have been asked after a series of other questions,” said Rox Anderson, who runs an art entertainment production company for LGBT people of color at 30th Avenue and Lake Street.
“The questions that they’re asking are, ‘Where should the Third Precinct be?’ I think most of the people in this room tonight were asking, ‘Should there be a Third Precinct at all?’”
Frederick Brathwaite, who owns Mama Sheila’s House of Soul in South Minneapolis, agrees. “Putting [the Third Precinct] back there would aggravate the community. It would be like pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire.”
Brathwaite said the police need to be reformed before they’re allowed back into the community, and a number of people who were at the meeting with Brathwaite said the same. “If you take bees from one hive and put them in another hive, they don’t become butterflies, they’re still bees and they’ll still sting you,” said Brathwaite.
Meanwhile, Anderson said he doesn’t believe there should be any police at all. “I think the Third Precinct should be an LGBT community center, or housing, or some other kind of community access or resource, because there are folks in the community that need them.
“Minneapolis has one of the largest LGBT populations in the whole country, and we have no center to serve folks. We need food, people need to be sheltered, and people who aren’t sheltered need to access showers and other things.”
The new precinct could cost the city anywhere from $12 million and three years to complete if it decides to rebuild at the Lake and Minnehaha site, or $24 million and five years to complete if it decides to build a new precinct at 26th and Minnehaha. Federal disaster relief funds may cover part of the rebuilding, with the rest to come from bonds. The latter site is city-owned, in a predominately industrial area, and next to several charter schools and an Ethiopian church.
The city is hosting one final public meeting at Sabathani Community Center on April 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. They are also hosting several more meetings that will not be publicized in order to elevate the voices of marginalized communities. Those interested in providing feedback on where the Third Precinct should be located can take a survey on the city’s website.