Nearly three years after the mass protests, riots, looting and arson following the police killing of George Floyd, Minneapolis is ready for the next emergency, Mayor Jacob Frey and a phalanx of city officials said Thursday.
“The next time something goes down, we’ll be prepared,” Frey said at a news conference at City Hall.
The statement marked the passing of a secular milestone: a quarterly update of the city’s “after-action report” on the violence and disorder that erupted from initially peaceful protests over Floyd’s May 2020 murder under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer.
That report, released in March 2022, concluded that the city — and Frey in particular — failed to implement the city’s emergency plans. In 10 days across the metro area, at least two people died, a police station was burned and more than 1,500 businesses suffered an estimated $500 million in damage, while some Minneapolis residents and business owners felt abandoned and forced to cope themselves. themselves.
Frey said he didn’t shy away from those conclusions, saying the progress report — a checklist of where the city stands in implementing 27 recommendations from the after-action report — is a “source of humble pride.”
He also emphasized that the city is not bulletproof. “We can still be 100% prepared and still be overwhelmed,” he said, drawing an analogy to units fighting wildfires in the American West.
Event command ‘reset’
Implementation of the checklist has involved all city departments, officials said, and Frey was flanked Thursday by officials who included Police Chief Brian O’Hara, Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander, Emergency Management Director Barret Lane, Fire Chief Bryan Tyner and Interim City Operations Officer Heather Johnston.
The photo was notable in that in the time since Floyd’s murder, O’Hara and Alexander have been hired — Alexander to a position that did not previously exist — Tyner was appointed to his position, and Johnston’s title and responsibilities have changed.
Much of the work, officials said, has involved clarifying and cementing who is responsible for what in a city emergency, whether it’s a riot or a natural disaster.
That issue is related to the city’s continued reorganization into a so-called “strong mayor” system after the change was approved by voters in 2021. That has been helpful, several officials said, but the process has been arduous as much of the proving grounds for changes involve hour-long training sessions or simulations.
A key component of clarifying those roles involves what officials have described as a reset of the city’s entire command structure for handling major events. The goal, they said, is to have the city put its renovated structure through a stress test in 2024 to make sure it aligns with a national standard known as the “National Incident Command System.”
“Today, it’s not about a flashy announcement, it’s about the subtle,” Frey said, noting that the command structure was among the numerous breakdowns during the 2020 unrest. “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the areas I should be involved in and the areas I should not be involved in.”
How does it look?
If mass protests involving thousands were to break out across the city tomorrow, it’s not entirely clear how the response would differ from that in 2020 — but officials said it would be different.
The use of less lethal ammunition, for example, has been restricted among police officers. O’Hara, who was deputy police chief in Newark, NJ, at the time of the 2020 unrest, said communication with the community has also improved.
O’Hara and others said elements of the new systems have already been used, although the details may be largely invisible to the public.
Many of the 27 recommendations relate to how departments, hierarchies and bureaucracies in the city communicate with each other and the public, and to how to codify those processes so that they continue despite personnel changes.
Officials pointed to two recent examples where different parts of the changes were implemented: Operation Memphis, Minneapolis’ preparation for unrest following the release of Memphis police video of the arrest of Tyre Nichols, who was assaulted by police and died, and Operation Endeavor, police efforts in high-crime areas during recent increases in violent crime and shootings.
Alexander said the fact that Minneapolis was at the epicenter of unrest that then spread across the nation and abroad has underscored the city’s sense of responsibility to protect itself from future violence.
“Today we are uniquely equipped,” he said.
Many of the changes differ from those required under an expected federal consent decree and settlement with the state on how Minneapolis manages its streets and neighborhoods within human rights laws and standards. These changes are more likely to focus on racially charged interactions, culture among police officers, and community relations.
The status report will be formally presented to the city council next week.