Minneapolis could soon hire a new commissioner to oversee police, fire and other safety services, if the City Council gives final approval later this week.
The new commissioner would report to Mayor Jacob Frey and be responsible for providing "planning and direction on a comprehensive overall community safety approach for Minneapolis."
Frey said in an interview Tuesday this will be "arguably the most consequential hire I'll ever make." He told council members the commissioner could start "as early as mid-July" but stopped short of specifying whether he had already offered the job to someone.
The creation of a new Office of Community Safety has been at the center of recent discussions about how city officials should aim to fulfill a promise to transform public safety following George Floyd's murder in 2020.
City Council members in a meeting Tuesday gave tentative approval for a plan to create the new position for a community safety commissioner, a job that comes with a salary ranging from roughly $295,000 to $350,000. A final vote is expected Thursday.
City officials would still need to pass a separate ordinance to set up the office and flesh out details of its operations. That process would take weeks and include at least one public hearing.
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 city is looking for a commissioner with at least 10 years of experience "at an executive level leading a complex organization or function where accountability for meeting goals and achieving results is valued." And it says the person should have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, public safety, public health, public administration or "a closely related field."
The effort to create a new community safety office is part of a larger plan pitched by Frey last fall, after voters approved a measure that handed him more power over the daily operations of most city departments. In addition to the community safety office, Frey proposed creating a new Office of Public Service to oversee many of the remaining city departments and be supervised by a city operations officer. The council on Tuesday also gave tentative approval to create a position for a COO, who would receive a salary ranging from about $270,000 to $320,000.
Four council members — Elliott Payne, Robin Wonsley, Jeremiah Ellison, and Aisha Chughtai — abstained from voting on the proposals in Tuesday's committee meeting. They raised a variety of concerns, with some saying they thought residents should have had more of a chance to weigh in on public safety changes, some saying they wanted reassurances that council members would have resources they need to approve local ordinances, and some questioning whether this was the best path for approving the changes.
"I feel that there are some unanswered questions about hiring pretty high-level executives in the enterprise and having not a lot of clarity yet for how that structure is going to play out, and us as a legislative body not necessarily having the necessary resources," Payne said.
Council Member Jason Chavez said: "I do continue to think that the pathway forward to this is through a charter change."
The charter serves as the city's constitution. Changing it would require unanimous approval from all 13 council members and the mayor, or approval from voters during another election.