The commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety, John Harrington, announced during a Friday morning press conference that a “unified response” to the riots in Minneapolis was being coordinated among local law enforcement agencies in anticipation of continued unrest Friday and over the weekend as the rioting that flamed through the city in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death threatened to spill over into nearby areas.
“We’re bringing together a unified command of metro area police departments, sheriffs’ departments and other law enforcement jurisdictions and public safety entities into a multi-agency command center where we will create a plan that will keep the peace, maintain the peace and prevent further lawless behavior in the city of Minneapolis, the city of St. Paul and surrounding suburbs,” said Harrington.
Few Twin Cities metro area law enforcement agencies could be reached for direct comment Friday afternoon and into Saturday, but suburban governments began rolling out city- and county-level curfews beginning at 8 p.m. Friday and lasting until 6 a.m. Saturday, to resume again Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Statements posted to social media by area law enforcement agencies and comments from those agencies that could be reached disclosed only a general narrative of high alert: coordination among neighboring jurisdictions, more officer visibility and targeted patrolling of higher risk areas.
“As a police department, we will not stifle your right to free speech and assembly, and we are committed to providing residents with the space they need to demonstrate peacefully. However, we want to be clear that we cannot allow anyone to behave unlawfully or destroy property. This behavior threatens the safety of all residents and the stability of our entire community,” wrote Bloomington Police Chief Jeffrey Potts in a statement May 29.
Golden Valley Police also issued a statement, posted to the city’s website, that “The Golden Valley Police Department (GVPD) continues to monitor the situation throughout the Twin Cities. Tonight, the GVPD will again have additional officers patrolling our streets to protect our residents and property.” A burglary at a Walgreens on Duluth Street and vandalism at a Douglas Drive Speedway were reported Friday night, according to the statement.
The response hasn’t been limited to inner ring suburbs.
“We’re certainly aware that the event in Minneapolis may very well spill over into other areas,” said Jason Kamerud, Carver County Sheriff. “We have built some plans and given consideration to a variety of public safety scenarios that we think might play out.”
Kamerud said the Carver County Sheriff’s Office was not officially part of the incident command piece, but that 10 of his deputies were sent at the request of Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry to the Oakdale neighborhood where Chauvin has his house and where civil unrest in that neighborhood has already led to the arrests of six people.
In the Lake Minnetonka area, Orono Police Chief Correy Farniok said that his department is coordinating with other nearby agencies to assist each other as needed, saying that the department’s specific response plan is one derived from a more generalized emergency preparedness plan shared with other departments in the Lake Area Emergency Management Group and which also aided the department in its emergency response to COVID-19.
“Right now we’re hearing some rumblings that we could see some small bands of looters coming up to this area so now we just have to plan to play it safe, and if this occurs and we need assistance we have talked to our other agencies to include them so that we’re all on the same page,” he said.
Farniok did not provide details on Orono PD’s or the emergency management group’s response protocols, nor did he say how many additional personnel the department would have on duty, citing safety concerns that included the possibility that some may use such information as a “challenge” to take on.
Kamerud with the Carver County Sheriff's Office also did not provide specifics but did confirm that certain areas in his coverage area that have been deemed to be at higher risk for burglary or looting would be receiving a more targeted patrol response in the next few days, saying that deputies would be keeping “a closer eye” on certain areas than they would under normal circumstances.
In some ways, the suburban response plan so far is an echo of that first phase that brought in the National Guard. In recounting his request for this initial back-up, Commissioner Harrington had indicated that the mission wasn’t fully known when the first ask was made.
“We called and they came. I said, ‘I’m going to need you. I’m going to need you in the city and I’ll need you for two or three days and I may need you longer than that and I can’t tell you what I’m going to need you to do yet, but I know I need you,’” said Harrington.
“We just don’t know what to expect because we’ve never seen a situation like this before in this area,” said Orono PD’s Farniok, adding that he was confident in what his department and nearby agencies have so far put together.
Harrington had iterated during the morning press conference that the public safety response has been one aimed at keeping the peace and protecting both people and property; that the response was not intended to silence the voices behind the riots.
“We were not deployed, we have not been deployed and we will not be deployed to stifle free speech, but we will not and cannot allow unlawful, dangerous behavior to continue,” he said.
George Floyd was an unarrmed black man who died May 25 while in custody of Minneapolis police. The protests over his death eventually led to riots that broke out in south Minneapolis Wednesday, with fires destroying or damaging dozens of buildings, including the 3rd Precinct police station. The unrest has since spread to St. Paul; a few businesses in Brooklyn Center have also reported damage.
Minneapolis Police Department on May 26 fired the four officers involved in the incident, which was recorded on video by a bystander and showed former MPD officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes as Floyd is heard to say that he can’t breathe. Chauvin was arrested and charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers involved—Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J Alexander Kueng—had not been taken into custody as of early Friday afternoon.
Gov. Tim Walz had signed an executive order May 28 activating the Minnesota National Guard in the Twin Cities metro area.
Prior to Friday’s announcement of the central command incident response, Commissioner Harrington had detailed that first wave of coordinated response that drew in some 250 personnel from the Minnesota National Guard, the Department of Natural Resources and the State Patrol, noting that it was time to transition from a mission of protecting infrastructure to one of restoring order and safeguarding against further violence.