The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has reversed a decision to change the uniform color of its police force from blue to green, months after initially requesting the change to distinguish it from the Minneapolis Police Department.
Park Board commissioners had called for green uniforms the week after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody. On the same night, they voted to stop using Minneapolis police officers for park-sanctioned events or to assist them in nonviolent police calls.
But some commissioners shied away from the change after police leaders presented the new design late Wednesday night.
Commissioner LaTrisha Vetaw, chairwoman of the park police oversight committee, called the change "thoughtless." The Park Board, she said, did not ask residents whether the new uniforms would actually make meaningful progress within the police force.
"Park police are park police," she said. "What we need to be working on is adequate training, building relationships with community."
Buying new uniforms for 34 park officers was estimated to cost $82,250, according to documents, which some commissioners questioned spending given the severe budget problems brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're going to vote for resolutions like this, we're going to have to be willing to pay the price, and we don't have the money to do so," Vetaw said.
In addition, they noted the similarity of the new uniforms to those of the U.S. Border Patrol, which they said could stoke fears in immigrants who use the parks.
The change failed to move past the committee, with only Commissioners Londel French and AK Hassan voting in support of the uniforms.
Police leaders themselves were wary of the change. Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto said the new uniforms could confuse parkgoers and were too similar to Border Patrol uniforms.
"I just had trouble understanding the benefit of a uniform change when the park police will continue to have the same rights and authorities ... as the Minneapolis Police Department," said Yvette Griffea-Gray, the park director at North Commons Park who served in the uniform redesign work group.
Park officers get a yearly allowance for their uniforms which they use to replace clothing that wears out over time, Ohotto said.
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753