In a special meeting that was at times both contentious and chaotic, the Crystal Police chief and president of the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association asked the Brooklyn Center City Council for support April 15.
The meeting, which started a half an hour late via Zoom due to a lack of a quorum, was largely spent in a two-hour closed session, with the council discussing security issues in private.
Acting City manager Reggie Edwards also provided attendees with updated plans on addressing the nightly protests that have followed the shooting death of Daunte Wright at a traffic stop.
Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter after shooting Wright April 11.
Ask for support
With three of five members in attendance – Councilmembers Kris Lawrence-Anderson and Marquita Butler had not yet joined the meeting – Mayor Mike Elliot announced plans to move the meeting into a closed session for security discussions.
Stephanie Revering, Crystal Police chief, requested to speak before the council went into its closed meeting, a request Elliott denied.
“Do you mind if I talk for about one minute,” Revering asked.
“Yes, I do mind,” Elliott responded.
Elliott then asked the city clerk to mute all participants who he had not recognized to speak.
However, Councilmember Dan Ryan was unwilling to support the motion to move to a closed session without further information, and Elliott moved the council to a recess.
Upon returning from the recess, Elliott recognized Revering. She began her comments by speaking on the mission of the West Command Mobile Field Force, a law enforcement collaborative containing officers from all 27 suburban law enforcement agencies in Hennepin County. The team is among the law enforcement groups responding to the protests outside Brooklyn Center's Police Department since Wright's death.
“Over the last 4 nights, while working very hard to protect those who were peacefully protesting and the residents of Brooklyn Center, our officers … were faced with many dangerous and violent situations,” Revering said. “Officers had projectiles and industrial-grade fireworks thrown at them, along with being sprayed with mace and bear spray. A number of these officers, all of whom who have come from outside of Brooklyn Center to help your community, have sustained various levels of injury.
"As police chiefs, we can not stand by and allow our officers to be injured by individuals trying to disrupt your community’s right for peaceful protest. In addition, officers have heard numerous comments by individuals in the crowds suggesting a desire by some to vandalize or burn down the Brooklyn Center Police Department and our officers have been working diligently to protect your community asset."
Revering continued, asking for support for law enforcement and touching on the use of less lethal force against protesters.
Elliott has publicly denounced the use of chemical irritants and less lethal munitions against peaceful protesters, and the council passed a resolution banning their use by the city's police department.
“We remain very committed to the city of Brooklyn Center and your residents and will do everything we can to help your community through these difficult times and to begin the long process ahead of healing, but we are only able to do our part with the unequivocal support of the leaders of this city in our mission as highlighted above,” Revering said.
“This support includes an understanding that officers, under a unified command structure, must be able to use all tools necessary to accomplish the mission listed above. And it must be understood that these tools may include the judicious use (of) less lethal options to accomplish the mission."
Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson similarly questioned the mayor's comments on police use of force in an April 14 letter.
Updated response to protests
Contention continued following Revering's comments.
“I was informed of this meeting by accident,” Lawrence-Anderson said as the council prepared to move to a closed meeting. “I had a member of the community contact me to tell me there was a meeting. I was never phoned. This is inappropriate.”
The council then agreed to move to a closed session, which continued for approximately two hours.
Upon returning to open session, Edwards outlined the city's approach to the ongoing protests.
“From a protesting side, we look to stabilize that in the context of two things: one, creating a space that amplifies and shares the voice of those who desire to articulate and share their thoughts and their perspectives, their pain,” he said. “We also want to do that in a safe way that protects all of the protesters, protects the police officers, protects the buildings, the public facilities and businesses.”
Plans to provide an artistic space for people to articulate their message, be it through painting on plywood boards or through a community dialogue with the council, are underway.
“We're tying to increase communication, introducing art – we want to be able to provide a space for people to actually articulate their message, whether or not that be using the microphone and setting up space where people can grab the mic and speak their truth, or is it at a time where council, the mayor, the administration, goes in the middle of the crowd and sets up space and then takes on questions and answers what people are really trying to understated about why things happen,” Edwards said.
“We're looking to maybe put up plywood boards and have people provide art and share their message. The fence that is around the police department, the concrete slabs, we're looking to do art on those.”
The city is now contracting with a violence intervention group that can work between law enforcement and the community in an effort to stop violence inside the protest groups, he said.
“When they engage with protesters they're not simply saying back up, but they're saying, 'You can't tear down the fence, but how you doing? What's going on?'” Edwards said.
A crew has also been hired to clean up after protests.
Elliott said that the council will plan a community listening session at a later date.
Community members and reporters shouted questions for the council, with microphones again being muted as the council moved to adjourn.
Overlapping comments were cut short as the meeting ended.