Minnesota city adopts new citing policy in wake of Daunte Wright murder

By Tim Harlow
Tribune of the Stars

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — Brooklyn Center took its first step in public safety reform on Tuesday, directing police to release offenders they cite for low-level crimes and only take them into custody when the law requires them to do so.

Under the new citation and release policy, officers can issue a misdemeanor and felony citation and then let the person go. The policy also requires officers to attempt to de-escalate situations and try alternatives to avoid taking people into custody, and document all efforts in writing before placing a person under arrest.

Downtown Brooklyn Mayor Mike Elliott announced the city's new summons and summons policy stemming from Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler's Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution passed in May.

Downtown Brooklyn Mayor Mike Elliott announced the city’s new summons and summons policy stemming from Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler’s Community Safety and Violence Prevention Resolution passed in May. (Tribunal News Service)

“Today we take another step forward in our collective work to reinvent public safety in Brooklyn Center,” Mayor Mike Elliott said. “This step brings us closer to ensuring greater fairness in the way we conduct public safety.”

The big idea is for officers to explore alternatives to avoid creating a criminal record, City Attorney Troy Gilchrist said.

The policy, crafted by the mayor, city manager and chief of police, aims to keep people without the financial means out of jail if they are caught for a minor traffic violation.

“Many people of color — especially black men — carry trauma from one experience, or more, when stopped by police,” said city council member Marquita Butler. “This policy is important and necessary to ensure that we have no more deaths from minor traffic violations.”

The policy grew out of Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler’s community safety and violence prevention resolution that city council passed in May. The measure was passed after the two black men were killed in encounters with police and calls for a new city department to oversee public safety, among other changes.

Under the policy, officers will be authorized to make an arrest for criminal offenses or if an officer believes a suspect poses a threat to themselves, property or the public.

Only the citation policy went into effect on Tuesday, and the city continues to work on implementing other aspects of the resolution passed in May. These include using unarmed civilians to handle minor traffic violations and creating an enforcement committee made up of residents, including residents who have been detained by Brooklyn Center police. , to review and make recommendations for future changes, as outlined in the resolution.

“It signals that a city is willing to learn from past mistakes and is committed to moving forward with meaningful, evidence-based policies,” said Munira Mohamed, policy associate at the ACLU of Minnesota.

City Council approved the creation of a project manager to lead the Community Safety and Violence Prevention Implementation Committee, in a 3-2 vote at its Aug. 23 meeting.

Elliott hoped that an implementation committee could be convened within the next couple of months and that more sweeping changes could be in place by next spring, but that timing is determined by “our need to ensure that there is no other death”.

Tuesday’s decision was applauded by Brian Fullman of the Barbershops and Black Congregation Cooperative. He said the move will allow Brooklyn Center to set the tone for the rest of the state.

“It opens up a conversation about how we can have public safety,” he said. “It encourages the community to use its voice every step of the way and reserves the dignity and respect of every Brooklyn Center resident.”

Police reform in the town of around 31,000 has become a hot topic after the deaths of the two black men. The city endured nights of protests and vandalism following the police shooting of Daunte Wright in April.

The new policy comes as the city is down to 38 officers from 44 at the start of the year. It also comes as the city carefully considers how it spends its money and how it will allocate funds to implement changes. Currently, about 43% of the city’s budget is spent on police and public safety.

Elliott said the citation policy is not final and changes are likely after the data is collected.

“We’re going to keep evolving,” Elliott said.

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Kevin A. Perras