Minneapolis welcomes $500K in private funds for police early intervention system

Council members initially pushed back against how the grant got in front of them before giving initial approval

Two man stand near a lecturn.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey speaks at a press conference alongside police Chief Medaria Arradondo about a grant given to the city from the Pohlad Family Foundation to support officer mental health inside of Minneapolis City Hall on Tuesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

A grant from the Pohlad Family Foundation would fund an early intervention program for Minneapolis police officers. The $500,000 for the system would be aimed at intervening with officers who are struggling or unwell before misconduct or other missteps occur.

The proposal ran into some opposition in the Minneapolis City Council, after some members complained that city staff had bypassed council scrutiny. But the committee later voted to accept the grants.  

Mayor Jacob Frey said the system could track things like complaints against officers, use of force reports or the number of sick days taken. 

”It’s about finding opportunities for both intervention and prevention, and it allows us to forecast risk first and then mitigate that risk,” Frey said Tuesday at an announcement of the grant at City Hall. 

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Frey said he hopes that the program could be up and running by early to mid-2022. The Pohlad Family Foundation has also offered another $200,000 that the mayor says would help fund the city’s mobile mental health crisis unit. 

The city has struggled to keep up staffing levels, with the number of active officers down by about a third, according to Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. He said the real-time data in the new system could help keep rank-and-file officers stay healthy. He reinforced that the program wasn’t a punitive measure. 

”As I continue to go throughout our four corners of our great city and talk to community, all of them have said that they want to be sure that they have our officers at their best when they come to meet with them,” Arradondo said. 

The Pohlad Family Foundation also has another $200,000 that the mayor said would help fund the city’s mobile mental health crisis unit. 

At a Minneapolis City Council committee meeting Wednesday, Council Member Steve Fletcher said city staff applied for the grant to fund the program, which was not funded by the council last year, without running it past the council as required for any grants over $250,000.  

“There should have been a moment for us to ask questions, to learn about how we feel about this proposal and to approve it,” Fletcher said. “I am pursuing the question about whether an ethics complaint can reveal the extent to which that circumvention of the council’s opportunity to weigh in on this conversation was intentional.”  

Interim City Coordinator Heather Johnston told council members that the city learned about the grant in early to mid-April. The departments met the deadlines for the grant on May 14. 

“It was a pretty quick turnaround in terms of the application process,” Johnston said. “This does happen from time to time. It certainly is not ideal, where we have to apply for a grant before we have time to bring it to council.” 

Council President Lisa Bender said there was “plenty of time” in April and May to bring the proposed grant in a public council meeting to “create some transparency.”  

Council member Linea Palmisano said starting the program as soon as possible would send a signal to potential employees that they’re committed to officer wellness and rebuilding the department. 

“We are at one-third less officers, and we’re tasking our supervisors to do a whole lot more,” Palmisano said. “The world won’t wait for this. This is reform.” 

Acceptance of the funding was approved by the council’s Policy and Government Oversight Committee by a vote of 10-3. The council will take a final vote on the grant Friday.