BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (WCCO) — Brooklyn Center is looking to change policing in the community and a revamped policy implemented this week targets low-level offenses by issuing a citation and letting a person go instead of arrest.
On Monday, officials announced an update to the police department’s “cite and release” policy. There were already guidelines in place requiring officers to give a citation and release individuals charged with petty or fine-only misdemeanors, and some others. But the revised provisions include some gross misdemeanor offenses in certain circumstances.
The new language also adds the option of referral to “one or more public assistance or service programs” that might be appropriate. It’s not a blanket release-all and there is some police discretion, like if an officer thinks keeping a person in custody would stop an imminent threat to public safety or if the offense involved a firearm.
Supporters of the change also tout it as the first step to a larger push for police reform.
“It’s a small step we think in the right direction, but it is a small step,” said Munira Mohamed, a policy associate with the ACLU of Minnesota. “And we don’t see this as a catch-all policy, and it isn’t even the highlight of the resolution passed earlier this year.”
The effort comes after Daunte Wright was shot and killed by a former Brooklyn Center police officer back in April during a traffic stop. The city council in May passed a resolution named for Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler, another man killed by law enforcement there. In broad strokes, the document laid the ground work to reimagine public safety in the north Twin Cities suburb.
There are other parts of the proposal yet to be implemented, such as having a new community response team to answer to mental health-related calls and an unarmed civilian department for enforcing non-moving traffic violations. Those are still in progress.
Mayor Mike Elliott said the goal is to have those operational by next spring, but acknowledged that deadline might be ambitious. The group tasked with helping to set in motion many of the plans, known as the “implementation committee,” is not yet formed, he said, though they are recruiting residents to join.
“This is work that should’ve been done years ago, and I myself am working as hard as I can to move this work forward. Our city is working to move this forward,” he said. “Next spring is not fast enough. This work couldn’t happen fast enough.”
Gino Fiebelkorn, who lives across the street from the Brooklyn Center Police Department and was struck by a rubber bullet during the civil unrest that followed Wright’s death, welcomed proposed changes to public safety in his community.
“I would like to see people not scared of each other,” he said. “I think the police are kind of fearful of the community and the community is definitely fearful of the police.”
Law enforcement groups and unions expressed opposition to the resolution when it was first introduced and passed.
Separately, The DFL-controlled House passed a similar “sign and release” policy when it comes to warrants for certain crimes, in addition to other changes to policing, but those failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.
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