Minneapolis' new commissioner of public safety says he regrets the "tone" of his replies on social media to community members asking critical questions about his new policing strategy in downtown, responding to accusations of unprofessionalism from the evening tweetstorm.
"The way I engaged with constituents last night on Twitter did not meet the standards I hold for myself and the Office of Community Safety team," Cedric Alexander, who is two months on the job, said in a statement Friday.
"I care deeply about the success of our community safety work in Minneapolis, and I know building trust happens one interaction at a time. I regret the tone of my responses, and I'm committed to respectful, constructive engagement with the communities we serve."
Alexander's tweets began late afternoon Thursday after Amity Foster tagged him and Mayor Jacob Frey in a post questioning why the city had stationed nine empty police squad cars downtown on Nicollet Avenue.
"What does this endeavor to show?" Foster, a city resident, asked in a reference to "Operation Endeavor," a data-centric policing initiative Minneapolis introduced last month.
"It shows an effort to increase police visibility throughout downtown and across the city if you didn't see them you would complain about that wouldn't you," Alexander replied. "Enough of the two faced talking from both sides of your mouth already!"
"I understand that you're taking a lot of criticism around Op Endeavor," Foster replied. "But you came to Minneapolis where relationships between police and community are, at best, tense. Visibility on its own is not public safety; it just isn't."
To which Alexander said: "Actually you're wrong again. I'm not taking any criticism on operation endeavor quite the opposite … ask the residents in north Minneapolis in which I bet you don't live there."
In a statement, Foster said she was glad to see how Alexander followed-up Friday to his earlier posts.
"As the lead public official on public safety in Minneapolis the commissioner's behavior sets the tone for how Minneapolis police engage with community members. ... What we saw yesterday was the opposite of that," Foster said.
"I really hope that this inspires leadership to consider the residents more fully and lifts up the fact that we all should be more involved in what public safety is for Minneapolis."
Others came to Alexander's defense. Among them was Lisa Clemons, founder of the outreach group A Mother's Love Initiative. Clemons said she's happy with the commissioner's work so far.
"I think on Twitter, it's almost as if everything goes, unless it's something you don't like," she said.
Clemons said she supports Operation Endeavor and believes the initial criticisms about the empty police squad cars weren't fair.
"Don't we want the squads to be empty? We want them out on the ground throughout our community talking to people and disrupting cycles of violence," she said.
Since Frey nominated him to be the city's first community safety commissioner, Alexander has promised to work to better coordinate safety services and rebuild trust in Minneapolis.
"It's really going to take all of us to do that," he told the City Council in August.
Many criticized Alexander for taking the divisive tone with the critics he'd pledged to unite.
"I don't care about what you think," he told Twitter user Jim Kruzitski, who said Alexander "irrationally scolded" Minneapolis residents. "I'm interested in protecting this community not denouncing police who are trying 24/7 to protect us."
From there, other users began interjecting into the conversation, some calling out Alexander's flippant tone. Alexander spent the next couple hours replying to more critics with a total of 17 more tweets.
"Slavery is over. No one controls anyone anymore … sorry," he responted to a post calling him "one more cop [Frey] can't control."
"Stop winning," he said to someone accusing him of being rude.
"I don't need to know you. Your hatefulness speak for itself," he said to a poster remarking on his $300,000 annual salary.
By late Thursday, some were calling for Alexander to be disciplined. "This sort of condescension and obnoxiousness should be grounds for suspension or termination," said WCCO radio host Jason DeRusha.
"The biggest problems with Minneapolis and its police department are a lack of trust and poor leadership," said Charlie Rybak, co-founder of online news service Southwest Voices and son of the former Mayor R.T. Rybak.
"It will be hard to fix either of those things if the highest paid employee in the history of Minneapolis spends his time yelling at the people that he works for on Twitter."
It's not the first time a Minneapolis public official has taken criticism for social media posts. In 2019, the city introduced its first-ever social media policy for elected officials, after then-City Council Member Alondra Cano took heat for blocking constituents, including Star Tribune journalists, from her Twitter account. Former Council Member Phillipe Cunningham breached the city's ethics code when he deleted a Fourth Ward Facebook discussion last fall, according to an ethics board.
Asked whether Alexander is subject to the city's social media policies, city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said: "We are in the process of reviewing the situation but have not made any determinations."
As deputy mayor of Rochester, N.Y., Alexander exhibited similar social media behavior toward journalist-turned mayoral candidate Rachel Barnhart after she filed an ethics complaint violation against him.
In response to a tweet by Barnhart accusing Alexander of having a role in the immigration detention of a young woman, he called her "disgusting."
"Rachel you are the biggest undercover bigot in Rochester N.Y. attempting to pose as some sort of liberal who cares about people of color," Alexander wrote in a separate thread on the issue.
"You're just a cheap opportunist hustling your own city. You are a disgrace to that city and what it has the potential to be."