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Harvard researchers present public safety recommendations for Minneapolis

This week, researchers at Harvard University released a plan for how the City of Minneapolis should approach public safety.

The report outlines key changes Minneapolis can make to improve the city’s safety outcomes. Many of the recommendations reflect steps the city has already taken, or plans to take.

They include providing alternative support methods and outreach teams beyond the police department (such as the city’s 311 service), establishing a community advisory board, and creating a communications dashboard.

“I see Minneapolis leading the country as we implement this plan, to guide the rest of the nation in transforming public safety for safe and thriving communities,” said Harvard researcher and report author Antonio Oftelie. “I say that because of my work, I look at police organizations and public safety organizations around the world. I do a lot of research on this, and while there are pockets of innovation in various cities, no one is doing such a comprehensive and transformative plan as what we have in the ‘Safe and Thriving Communities’ plan. So, Minneapolis will be the lead on this.”

The 143-page report includes recommendations for long-term solutions, such as incentivizing “good practice to entities and staff” and to “adjust the retention plan to identify opportunities to improve employee satisfaction.” It also recommends creating a 911 professional education track in local trade schools and universities.

The Minneapolis Police Department has been scrutinized over the past three years by both state and federal officials. Since George Floyd’s murder, the city has paid more than $60 million to settle police misconduct cases. The very existence of the MPD came into question in 2021 as Question 2 on the city ballot would have dissolved the department. The measure failed 56% to 43%.

“This comes at a perfect time, because we are on the verge of this budget process in 2024,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said. In the immediacy, we can look to how some of these recommendations can fit into this next year's budget, and we can start planning for the allocations that are going to be made in the future as well.”

Mayor Frey says that implementing the recommendations will take time and money, as the report is likely to expand the Office of Community Safety’s workload. OCS commissioner Cedric Alexander recently said he does not have the staff to effectively change public safety in Minneapolis. The city recently created a position for an outreach director position for up to $115,000.

The 18-month-long study cost $400,000, and involved approximately 150 interviews.

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