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As MPD searches for new chief, north Minneapolis demands leader who can change culture, improve public safety

At the first of five listening sessions, community members expressed a desire for a new MPD chief who can improve accountability and tackle violent crime.

MINNEAPOLIS — Mohamed Ahmed has a few qualifications in mind for the next chief of the Minneapolis Police Department. 

Ahmed, who lives on the north side, said at a Folwell Park community meeting on Monday that he'd like the city to hire someone with local ties and a proven record of working with constituents from varied backgrounds. 

"We have a very diverse city here. We have to acknowledge all types of people," Ahmed said. "Someone who is willing to have that conversation in our neighborhoods would be a great candidate."

Ahmed did not speak publicly at the meeting, but many others did, providing input to the city during the first of five "listening sessions" across all five Minneapolis Police precincts following the retirement of former Chief Medaria Arradondo

Several common themes emerged after an hour of discussion, including calls for more accountability on police behavior and use of force, along with concerns about spikes in violent crime and unsolved cases. 

Ward 4 Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw led Monday's exchange and called the search for the next chief "one of the most important things I'm going to do in my adult life." Vetaw, a member of Mayor Frey's search committee, said in an interview before the meeting that she prefers a candidate who can tackle multiple problems at once.

"For me, I'm looking for someone first, who understands what's happening in Minneapolis around policing," Vetaw said. "Our city is pushing for deep reform, but we also want to have officers."

The next police chief will inherit a department that has lost hundreds of officers since the murder of George Floyd and the unrest that followed. 

"There's a shortage of officers, not only in MPD but all over. So, people are understanding of that, but they also want something to happen," Vetaw said. "They want good police."

The search committee Vetaw serves on, which consists of both elected officials and community leaders, will eventually recommend police chief candidates for Mayor Frey to interview. That committee is working collaboratively with a search firm hired by the city, named Public Sector Search & Consulting Inc. The PSSC will recruit candidates and build a detailed job posting, among other responsibilities. 

At the same time, the city is also seeking public input, both online and through the five in-person listening sessions. Council Member Vetaw will lead all of those meetings.

"The goal is to have these sessions inform the actual chief search and job description, doing these before we sit down with the search firm," Vetaw said, "to figure out who they've recruited, who wants to interview for this position and also what the job description is going to be."

Lisa Clemons, a well-known peace activist with A Mother's Love and a fellow member of the mayor's search committee, said at the meeting Monday that the Minneapolis Police Department must change its culture from within. Before she turned to community work, she served as a member of the Minneapolis Police Department. 

"I think I'm the only one [on the search committee] who has the lived experience of being a Minneapolis police officer, especially living the experience of being a Black officer and a Black woman in the Minneapolis PD," Clemons said. "I want to talk about internal processes, not just things I see on the surface, but I want to talk about behind-the-scenes and how a chief would address those things." 

After Mayor Frey interviews candidates recommended by the search committee, he has the sole authority to nominate the next chief of police. However, that choice is still subject to city council approval.

Mohamed Ahmed, who has lived in Minneapolis his entire life and supported former Chief Medaria Arradondo, said he hopes the city will take the public's opinions into consideration.

And he hopes the next chief of Minneapolis police will place an emphasis on building relationships in north Minneapolis.

"This part of town is neglected," Ahmed said. "We need to come into these neighborhoods. It takes a leader to come in and have a simple conversation."

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