See more of the story

A proposal that would relocate the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct to a rented building has run into trouble with the City Council, whose members are reluctant to create a new police station while the department remains largely unchanged since the killing of George Floyd.

A City Council committee Thursday voted to reject a $1.2 million-a-year lease on a warehouse about a half-mile north of the precinct. The vote was a significant blow to the proposal, which is still scheduled for consideration by another committee and the full City Council next week.

At the committee meeting, Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said he hadn't heard anyone speak in favor of the move, with surrounding neighbors seemingly shocked that the precinct could be relocated to the warehouse.

"I think that this is a failure of our priorities," Ellison said. "We asked that there be real, meaningful change when it comes to all decisions regarding public safety ... and yet we are very quick to rush to business as usual."

The precinct does need to find another home, he said, "but it's happening out of order."

After the Third Precinct was besieged and burned by protesters in the aftermath of Floyd's death, officers were stationed in several sites, including the Minneapolis Convention Center. City officials began searching for a temporary location for the precinct in June.

They negotiated a deal with the owners of a 78,500-square-foot warehouse at 2633 Minnehaha Av., recently home to Imagine Express, a commercial printing business. The arrangement would have the city take over the remainder of the company's lease, paying $1.2 million a year for the next three years with the potential to renew for an additional year.

A council committee had initially signed off on the lease last month, but the council then pulled back after neighbors complained.

Council members Thursday said the proposal was met with strong opposition from the neighborhood. They said that allocating millions toward a new building for the Third Precinct sidestepped their promises for a "yearlong process of community engagement" to rethink public safety.

"We are not at a time when we can move forward on investments in policing without community discussion," Council Member Steve Fletcher said. "For us to be asked, without really a lot of evidence or reason, to support this … is preposterously out of sync with the moment that we are living in."

Other city officials said it was urgent that the council find another site, both for Third Precinct employees and for neighborhoods served by officers in the precinct.

"I do consider this location to be critical," City Coordinator Mark Ruff told council members. "Without a location, the effectiveness of the Police Department to respond is significantly diminished."

Council Member Linea Palmisano, the sole vote against denying the lease, said the council was on "borrowed time" at the current location at the convention center. Ruff said the space would be available to officers only until the spring.

"A decision needs to be made," she said. "I think that pushing this out indefinitely is not helpful."

The four officers charged in Floyd's death, who have since been fired, worked in the Third Precinct. The precinct had a reputation for overly aggressive policing, often with incidents involving people of color.

Council Member Cam Gordon, who represents the encompassing ward, compiled a list of changes that neighbors wanted if the city moved the precinct to the warehouse. The list included renaming the building as the Southside Community Safety Resource Center, having neighbors manage a portion of the space and creating a "community-led restorative justice process" for officers in the precinct.

Repairing the Third Precinct building would cost $10 million, according to estimates compiled by the city this summer.

Staff writer Libor Jany contributed to this report.