The Minneapolis suburb where police recently killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright has approved a package of proposals meant to begin making changes to public safety and violence prevention in the city.
The Brooklyn Center City Council voted 4-1 on Saturday to pass a resolution called the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety & Violence Prevention Act. Mayor Mike Elliott introduced the resolution last week, naming it after two men who abruptly died at the hands of police ― one of whom was killed just last month.
“This will transform public safety in our city, honoring two young men who were robbed of their futures,” Elliott tweeted. “This is just the first step in a long road ahead ― but that is work that we as a city are ready to do with our community. There will be lots of questions to answer, lots of learning, and lots of opportunity for the community to be at the center of this change.”
The resolution does not make any immediate sweeping changes, but rather gives the city a road map to overhaul its policing system. It creates an oversight office that would monitor the city’s police, fire and two new city departments ― Traffic Enforcement and Community Response.
The Traffic Enforcement Department will be made of unarmed civilians responsible for non-moving traffic violations, while the Community Response Department will consist of trained medical, social work and mental health professionals for incidents where a resident is experiencing a medical, mental health or other behavioral or social need.
By passing the package of proposals, the City Council also commited to creating a committee mostly made up of residents who have been arrested, detained or incarcerated before. The committee would review city safety data and make recommendations on how to modify or launch programs to improve community safety and prevent violence. This will allow such a committee to look at criminal codes and recommend decriminalizing or completely repealing certain offenses, as well as have a say in police’s response to protests and the the police union’s contract with the city.
The resolution also limits instances in which police can arrest people, and requires more de-escalation tactics before using deadly force. Offices will be required to issue citations by mail for traffic violations, non-felony offenses and non-felony warrants.
“It is time,” said councilmember Marquita Butler, who, along with Elliott and colleagues April Graves and Dan Ryan, voted to pass the resolution, according to the Star Tribune.
“We’ve been talking about these reforms for quite a while, more specifically since last June, after the death of George Floyd,” Butler said. “And we didn’t have as much urgency around it as we probably should have.”
Then-Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter shot and killed Wright on April 11 after he was pulled over for a non-moving traffic violation. Body camera footage shows Potter drawing her service weapon while repeatedly yelling “Taser!” before fatally shooting Wright. Since then, Potter, the police chief and the city manager have all left their posts. Potter is charged with second-degree manslaughter, and her killing Wright reignited protests against police brutality and backlash against low-level traffic stops that disproportionately impact Black drivers and other people of color.
In 2019, Brooklyn Center police shot and killed Kobe Dimock-Heisler, who had a mental illness and was on the autism spectrum. The 21-year-old’s grandfather made a mental health call to police after fearing that Dimock-Heisler might hurt himself when he grabbed a knife, but then tried to reverse the call after saying the situation was resolved, according to KARE-11.
Police arrived anyway, and while their body cameras were off as they interrogated ― and likely agitated ― Dimock-Heisler, footage shows them trying to shock the crying young man and then repeatedly shooting at him when he runs toward his grandmother. Police were not charged in the incident.
Dozens of people reportedly spoke at the council meeting, including the families of the young men who were killed. Daunte Wright’s mother, Katie Wright, said that she believes her son would still be alive if the resolution that passed had existed earlier, according to The Associated Press.
Police groups and unions have raised concerns about the resolution, saying it will put public safety at risk. But the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said that the resolution is a move toward alternatives to traditional policing that has too often harmed people of color.
“I am so proud of Brooklyn Center for remaking their public safety system,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted. “This gives [a] roadmap to other cities across the country on necessary steps towards creating a more just system.”