Frey picks Newark deputy mayor as next Minneapolis police chief

Major Jacob Frey Brian O'Hara03
Brian O'Hara, deputy mayor of Newark, N.J., speaks to reporters Thursday after Mayor Jacob Frey announced O'Hara's nomination to be the next Minneapolis police chief.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Updated 5:20 p.m.

Brian O’Hara, the deputy mayor of Newark, N.J., who oversees policing strategy in that city, is Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s choice to be the next Minneapolis police chief.

“Minneapolis has been asking for change and Brian O’Hara has answered that call,” Frey told reporters as he announced his choice Thursday morning. Frey said discussions with neighborhood groups identified the need for a “reform-minded” candidate and a “change maker” as the next chief, and that O’Hara fit the bill.

Frey said O’Hara had success in driving down shootings in Newark. He also noted O'Hara’s experience in Newark handling a consent decree was important. Minneapolis is under U.S. Justice Department investigation for its police practices and patterns, and those investigations tend to result in a consent decree, a formal agreement on changes the department must take.

The Minneapolis City Council must still approve O’Hara. The nomination is likely go to the City Council Thursday next week. The mayor's office is hoping the new chief will be confirmed by early November.

O’Hara, 43, called the problem of street crime “urgent” in Minneapolis and said addressing the city’s gun violence was his priority.

“All people have a right to feel safe,” he said. “It should not matter what neighborhood you live in.” He asked critics of the Minneapolis Police Department to give him a chance at making needed changes.

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O'Hara said the idea that policing should "go away or be abolished is unrealistic," but said he was committed to holding officers accountable.

O'Hara has been with Newark police since 2001. He was appointed public safety director of Newark in 2021, overseeing a department of almost 1,000 police officers, more than 600 firefighters and a budget of about $200 million.

In July, Newark’s mayor named O’Hara a deputy mayor overseeing policing strategy. While the city characterized it as a promotion, the Newark Star-Ledger reported at the time that O’Hara was removed as public safety director following an uptick in crime.

The city of Newark denied a request from MPR News for O’Hara’s personnel and disciplinary records. 

Council Member Robin Wonsley, who represents parts of south Minneapolis, said she’d learned later in the day that O’Hara was Frey’s nominee. She said she looked forward to learning more about him but that significant challenges lie ahead.

“I can only speak to what I know is needed and kind of the landscape that any nominee that takes this job, what they’re walking into, and the needs that residents have expressed, in terms of wanting to see substantial changes right now around our public safety system,” Wonsley said.

Minneapolis leaders earlier in the month narrowed the field of potential police chiefs to three — all of them from out of state. They included O’Hara, Elvin Carren, a former Detroit cop and chief of police in Southfield, Mich. and Charlottesville, Va., police chief RaShall Brackney.

Interim Minneapolis chief Amelia Huffman, who has been with the department since 1994, was not on the list. Chief Medaria Arradondo retired in January after saying he would not accept a third term running the department.

Watch: Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced Brian O’Hara as his pick to be the next chief of police: