Minneapolis can hire a community safety commissioner after the City Council on Thursday voted to create the new position.
The new commissioner will be tasked with overseeing the leaders of police, fire and other safety programs and helping to coordinate their responses to various crises, when necessary.
"That's critical for safety of the residents in our city," Mayor Jacob Frey said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. "It's so important for the reform measures that we need to see take place in our Police Department and more broadly, and doing this work is more than our office will ever be able to do alone."
Council Member Robin Wonsley, the sole vote against the proposal, questioned whether creating the new position would achieve those goals, or whether it would further dilute accountability for safety services.
Hearing that the mayor needs additional administrative support "is simply not a good enough reason to restructure the government without intentional thought," Wonsley said. She added: "If the mayor needs help, he has a budget and a staff to direct as he needs."
The creation of a new Office of Community Safety has been a focal point of recent debates about how city officials should aim to transform public safety following George Floyd's murder in 2020.
The council's 12-1 vote Thursday cleared the way for the city to create the position for a commissioner to oversee that department, a job that comes with a salary ranging from roughly $295,000 to $350,000.
But city officials still need to pass a separate ordinance to set up the office itself and flesh out details of its operations. That process is expected to take weeks, include a public hearing, and conclude as soon as mid-August.
A job posting for the community safety commissioner provides some hints about how the new office might operate. Among other departments, the commissioner would oversee the leaders of police, fire, 911, emergency management and neighborhood safety services, where the city's violence prevention programs are likely to be housed. The posting says the commissioner must "ensure collaboration and commitment to [a] comprehensive community safety approach."
Wonsley questioned why the city didn't follow the "logical order" and create the office before setting up the position. In the news conference, Frey said he hopes to have a commissioner in place to help shape the new department and inform its budget recommendations, which he's expected to outline in mid-August.
"I think it makes all the sense in the world to have these necessary positions set up so that we can build out these departments," Frey said. "Building out these departments is no small task."
The council also voted 12-1 Thursday to create a new position for a city operations officer, a role that would come with a salary ranging from about $270,000 to $320,000. That person would oversee a new Office of Public Service that includes many of the other city departments. Council members would also need to pass an additional ordinance to create that office.
The mayor pitched the idea of creating these positions after voters last fall passed a measure that granted him more power over city departments' daily operations. He said, among other things, that he needed additional employees to ensure accountability and efficiency in city government.
While council members overwhelmingly supported the proposals, some said they did so cautiously. Some said they wanted to ensure that council members have the resources they need to do their work crafting local rules. Some also said they wanted to ensure that employees in the city's Office of Performance and Innovation, including some who recently raised concerns about "toxic" and "racist" work conditions, continue to have a role in the city.
"While I'll be supporting this today, I look forward to the conversation that will happen in the future," said Council Member Jason Chavez.