The Longfellow Community Council hosted an informational meeting on Thursday evening, November 16, to share information with the community about the new police building that will be constructed in the neighborhood. Minneapolis council members who represent the Longfellow neighborhood—Robin Wonsley and Jason Chavez—as well as Jamal Osman, were invited to speak at the event to give the community the latest information on the new Third Precinct building.
The council members discussed the history of the search for a precinct location, their hopes of getting a Department of Public Safety in the new building, and what public safety services they would like to see.
The city of Minneapolis has been searching for a new location for the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) Third Precinct headquarters since it was burned down during protests over George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. The city, along with local neighborhood organizations, held a series of community feedback sessions earlier this year, where the community was presented with a choice between the original Third Precinct location at 3000 Minnehaha Ave. or a site at 2600 Minnehaha Ave.
Community members who attended the feedback sessions expressed frustration that they were not being heard. Black community leaders wanted to develop 2600 Minnehaha into a Black economic development center. Other community members preferred that a new Third Precinct site not be built at all.
In November, after several votes to study Third Precinct locations in Seward and downtown, the city council voted to locate the Third Precinct headquarters as well as a community safety center in the Seward neighborhood at 2633 Minnehaha Avenue. Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposal projected a cost between $7 to $8.5 million for the Department of Public Safety in the new building.
The public safety department did not present a plan or conduct engagement for what will go into the space, leaving the three councilmembers to appear in a meeting full of disgruntled residents.
Community members expressed similar frustration during Thursday’s meeting, with some feeling that the council had not done enough to ensure the Department of Public Safety would be able to meaningfully operate in the community if based out of the new location. Some question whether the department will even operate out of the building at all, as the plan for the location passed with funding only guaranteed for policing operations.
According to Wonsley, the commissioner of public safety told the city council that community safety operations might be “phased in” after the opening of the precinct. Wonsley acknowledged the community’s frustrations.
“Time and time again, they’re being asked to show up by the city to share their thoughts, their feedback, their input, their expertise, and their time around critical priorities like public safety,” Wonsley said. “And they show up and when their input is collectivized and formed into reports and analysis, they’re seeing the trend of the city or city leaders dismiss that and go in a very different direction—the direction [the city] intended on anyway.”
Other community members expressed concern about people having to enter a police station to access the Department of Public Safety’s social services, saying many people are uncomfortable around police. One community member expressed fear that the culture of MPD would spread to the Office of Public Safety if they shared a space.
Wonsley authored a legislative directive sent to Frey to request a “comprehensive overview” of how the community safety center would contribute to existing community safety models. She also requested a list of community safety functions and programs that would be offered at the new Third Precinct upon its opening. Wonsley requested the mayor’s response no later than Jan. 31 of next year.
Wonsley said she was “impressed, but not surprised” at how many community members showed up to express their opinions at Thursday’s meeting.
“It shows that for several years community members have been the ones leading this conversation and shaping the new vision for what public safety looks like in our city, but also what does that look like even from a standpoint of a building,” Wonsley said.