The University of Minnesota will again cooperate with the Minneapolis Police Department on some public safety matters, resuming a relationship that the school severed days after the murder of George Floyd.
With crime a rising concern in recent months in areas around the school's Dinkytown campus, U President Joan Gabel said in remarks released Wednesday that the school would "begin an evaluative, phased approach to reinstating work with the [Police Department] for large events and specialized services."
"Law enforcement in the city of Minneapolis should reflect the public safety expectations of all members of our community," Gabel said. "We are encouraged by the many steps the city has taken to meet that expectation and look forward to future steps."
Minnesota's largest public university — with a main campus fully within the city of Minneapolis — scaled back its relationship with the department in late May 2020 after Floyd died while pinned to the pavement beneath the knee of then-officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was later convicted of Floyd's murder and imprisoned.
In a letter to students and staff after Floyd's death, Gabel wrote, "I do not have the words to fully express my pain and anger, and I know that many in our community share those feelings, but also fear for their own safety. This will not stand."
At the time, the university, which maintains its own police force, decreed that Minneapolis officers would no longer be used for football games, concerts or other major campus events. But the U said city officers would continue to work on joint patrols and specific investigations alongside university police.
Student leaders said Thursday they were frustrated that university officials made the decision without input from the student body and its leaders.
"It's frustrating to see the university continue a pattern of making decisions about campus and about student safety without taking into account student input and consultation," said Carter Yost, government and legislative affairs director for the Undergraduate Student Government, formerly known as Minnesota Student Association.
"The university has not done enough work to ensure that it can say that the decisions that they are making are representative of what students want to see."
Mina Zhang, the student group's communication director, said the administration should have been more transparent about how the decision was made.
"It's hard to understand what path they're trying to go in," Zhang said. School officials "initially pulled back from cooperating with [city police] when the George Floyd incident happened in 2020, but now they're resuming relations. It's unclear to students as to what their thought process was, why they chose to make that decision and who did they consult for that?"
University spokesman Chuck Tombarge told the Star Tribune on Thursday that school officials are seeing the Minneapolis Police Department "evolving in healthy and important ways."
"Department process and operational changes — such as refocusing on diversity recruitment, initiating reforms for officer accountability and wellness, among others — reflect a commitment to better serve all residents and visitors of the city," Tombarge said.
Since 2020, the Police Department has moved more fully under the authority of Mayor Jacob Frey, who recently added Cedric Alexander as the city's first public safety commissioner. University officials saw those as positive developments, Tombarge said.
With the fall semester about to start and campus life moving back toward normal from the pandemic, students and parents have raised concerns about crime on or near the campus.
Strong-arm robberies, assaults and carjackings have been among the more prevalent offenses. There also have been unruly late-night crowds and shootings. In early June, a 15-year-old boy was shot and wounded in the leg during what police called a "large crowd disturbance" near the campus. In June 2021, five people, including three students were wounded in a shooting in Dinkytown.
Closer collaboration and problem-solving between Minneapolis police and the university should "make the city of Minneapolis safer for all neighborhoods and residents," Tombarge said.
Minneapolis police spokesman Garrett Parten said in a statement that the department "has maintained an uninterrupted relationship with the University of Minnesota Police Department in our commitment to promoting safety, providing emergency response, and maintaining peace in our city ... We look forward to this continued collaboration."
The renewed relationship will get a big test beginning next Thursday when off-duty Minneapolis police officers will start providing security during Minnesota Gophers home football games at Huntington Bank Stadium.