Frey meets with top cops to talk police-community relations

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo met on Thursday.
Brandt Williams | MPR News

In his first public meeting with top police officials, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced initiatives he says will help improve police-community relations.

Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo also held a joint press conference Thursday at a new grocery store located in the Webber-Camden neighborhood on the city's north side.

The new mayor reiterated some of the goals he talked about during his campaign. He called for more accountability and transparency in the police department. Frey said police officers involved in confrontations should exhaust all other options before using deadly force.

Frey also said chief Arradondo shares his values and that the two will be working closely together to make changes that will rebuild trust between the public and the department.

"What we're going to be looking at is narrowing the beats of each individual officer and putting them on consistent times and schedules so they have the opportunity to build out these relationships that we all talk about," said Frey.

In order to do that, Frey said the city will likely have to look at budgeting for more police officers, but did not offer a target number of cops he'd like to see on duty. The goal, said the mayor, is to make sure that officers won't have to spend the majority of their shifts going from one 911 call to the next.

Frey also announced that starting this spring, 125 police officers will start carrying the opioid overdose antidote Narcan.

Arradondo said officers who patrol the south central part of the city, as well as cops who respond to critical incidents will carry the drug.

"Sadly, this has become such an epidemic — not only here locally but across our country," said Arradondo. "The goal would be, at some point and time, to have our entire department equipped with that."

Frey and Arradondo also sat down with several community members for about an hour to discuss how to improve relations between the department and the public. They listened to people like Sa'Lesha Beeks, whose mother Birdell Beeks was an innocent bystander when she was shot and killed while she sat in a minivan with her teenage granddaughter in May 2016.

"One of the huge problems I had was my daughter was 16 when this happened. I pull up to the scene and she's in the back seat of a hot police car with the windows completely rolled up," said Beeks, who added that her daughter suffered from anxiety attacks. She said she asked to be with the teen.

"And I said, 'Can I just get close to her?' 'No she's a witness,' Beeks recalled an officer told her. "But at some point you have to humanize it and realize she's not just a witness, she's a child."

Frey listened closely and took notes.

"This was an excellent start to the community engagement that we want to see in the city broadly," Frey said at the end of the session.

Frey also told the group this will not be the last time he meets with members of the community, along with chief Arradondo.