Last Thursday, the Minneapolis City Council voted to co-locate the 3rd Precinct headquarters with the 1st Precinct at their under-construction downtown Minneapolis headquarters. In addition, after hearing feedback from community members, the council agreed to never consider moving the 3rd Precinct back to its previous location before it was torched, looted and evacuated three years ago in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder at 38th and Chicago.
The vote to never build a police precinct at 3000 Minnehaha, of which Council Vice President Linea Palmisano was the lone “no” vote, as well as the unanimous vote to co-locate the 1st and 3rd precincts, come as the city council receives a report from staff about the flawed community engagement to rebuild the 3rd Precinct headquarters.
In introducing the resolution at the Committee of the Whole meeting on July 18 to never relocate the 3rd Precinct at the 3000 Minnehaha site again, Councilmember Jason Chavez, who represents that ward, said his constituents were frustrated that the City offered only two choices in bringing the 3rd Precinct headquarters back into the precinct boundaries. “There were a ton of people who didn’t fill out the survey, because they didn’t agree with the options. They opened up the survey, and they closed it. They called our office and shared their frustrations that [2600 Minnehaha and 3000 Minnehaha were the] only two options to move forward,” said Chavez.
Councilmembers at the Committee of the Whole meeting expressed concerns about conducting community engagement around locating the 3rd Precinct headquarters, even though three years has passed since the precinct was destroyed. Some believed the survey was poorly designed and intended to manufacture consent.
“They don’t feel that it’s something that really represents what the City should be doing. It should be an open process, where people can actually express themselves,” said Ayodeji Emmanuel Oyebola, senior consultant for DeYoung Consulting, as he presented community engagement results to the Committee of the Whole. Some thought the City jumped the gun on engagement, because they had yet to facilitate a healing process to hold themselves accountable for bad policing.
Jenny, who tends to the People’s Closet at George Floyd Square and lives nearby, agrees. “We are still in the process of healing,” said Jenny. “We do not need to sit there and talk about the 3rd Precinct right now. That does not matter. That is not relevant. What matters right now is the people and what we’ve been through, and how we need to heal. The abusers should not be the focus of the conversation right now.”
The engagement process appears not to represent the demographics of the 139,000 or so residents who live in the 3rd Precinct. The precinct area has a sizable BIPOC population. Only 3,000 people completed the survey, while 1,000 people attended the in-person meetings. The surveys, which people were able to fill out more than once, overrepresented White people. In addition, the survey was reportedly being shared with conservative groups whose members live outside of the 3rd Precinct.
The City attempted to address the disparities by hosting focus groups with people from the Asian, African American, East African, Latino, Native American and LGBTQ communities. The Asian, African American, East African, Latino and Native American communities want some form of public safety in their communities. The LGBTQ community explicitly said they do not want the 3rd Precinct to return at all and the City to develop more creative approaches to public safety.
The City’s search for a 3rd Precinct site created an obstacle in the City’s long-term plans to bring a community center to the 2600 Minnehaha location. “[The East African community] said that there was an interest in developing a mall for the East African community,” said Oyebola.
Until the City figures out where to locate the 3rd Precinct, Council President Andrea Jenkins introduced a plan to move the 3rd Precinct headquarters, which is currently housed in the City of Lakes building across from City Hall, with the new 1st Precinct headquarters. Both precincts would be located at Century Plaza, where developers are currently renovating the former Miller Vocational High School building, turning it into a police precinct and a hotel to open next year.
Southsider Johnnie Lee believes police need to have a presence to prevent the South Side from becoming more like the deteriorating conditions in the 1990s, when crime was rampant. “By having them in the neighborhood, I think it’d be better. You don’t give the people a chance to say they’re not in the neighborhood and that it’s okay to get trouble started,” said Lee. “Regardless of the bad thing [George Floyd’s murder] that did happen, all of them are not bad.”
Still, Southsider Krystal Smith believes they don’t need the police except in very limited circumstances. “Now when somebody gets killed or something like that, you do have to call them. But other than that, we don’t need them. What do we need them for? They’re literally nothing but trouble,” said Smith as she hung out with neighbors at the Peopleway at George Floyd Square.