Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is preparing to announce the most important appointment of his political career: picking a man to lead the police department, sparking a global movement in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
The mayor interviewed three finalists selected from a national search over the weekend and said he hopes to announce his selection by the end of the month.
Here’s what we know about search and what’s next.
Why is Minneapolis looking for a police chief?
A few weeks after former chief Medaria Arradondo announced his retirement in December, the embattled police department survived an effort to replace it with a new agency. Arradondo worked for the department for three years, ending his career as the city’s first black police chief, and overseeing the department through Floyd’s murder, subsequent riots and political debate over the future of policing.
Arradondo completed his last day in the division in January. Since then, it has been led by interim chief Amelia Hoffman, another MPD veteran who served as deputy chief.
What is the city looking for a new chief?
The official job posting says the city is looking for “a visionary leader who can communicate the need for MPD and create lasting and systemic change within MPD.” It said the next superintendent should have a track record of implementing change, be willing to Work with state and federal agencies demanding changes to the sector and work to repair community relations.
In a series of public meetings earlier this year, residents said they wanted someone loyal to them, not just a politician loyal to electing a chief. Some said they wanted a chief who would improve police accountability and reduce the use of force by the department, which has historically used excessive force against black residents. Others say reducing violent crime is a priority. Many said they wanted a chief who could do both.
What challenges does the sector face?
The department continues to face dual demands to increase police accountability and reduce violent crime. Like some other large U.S. cities, Minneapolis has seen an increase in homicides and gun attacks over the past two years—a rise that hasn’t had the same effect on residents. Meanwhile, debate continues over how many officials the city should employ. An unprecedented number of officers have left the department in the wake of Floyd’s murder, reducing the number of people who can work in the city by about 300.
The city is working to negotiate a legal deal with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which found the MPD had engaged in racial discrimination for the past decade. Meanwhile, the Justice Department continues its own similar investigation, which could lead to a consent order outlining a series of changes the city must make.
Who is involved in the search and how does it work?
The city announced in March that it had hired a California firm called Public Sector Search & Consulting to help with the nationwide search for its next chief executive. It also said veteran law enforcement officer Cedric Alexander, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, will assist in the process. (Alexander was hired as Minneapolis’ first community safety commissioner, overseeing the leadership of the city’s police, fire, 911, emergency management and violence prevention programs.)
The company works with a 12-member selection committee of elected officials and community leaders to determine the details of the next CEO’s job description and help process their applications. The committee conducted interviews and submitted three finalists to the mayor, all from outside the department.
Who are the three finalists?
- Erwin BarronAfter 21 years with the Detroit Police Department, he became chief of Southfield, Michigan, in 2019, where he was promoted to deputy chief. He earned a master’s degree in criminal justice from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and spent eight years in the Navy as a combat specialist.
- Rachel Brackney, who served as police chief in Charlottesville, Virginia, for about three years until she was fired by city managers after surveys revealed significant concerns among the general public. She filed a race and sex discrimination lawsuit, claiming her firing was retaliation for disbanding the city’s SWAT team in an effort to root out police misconduct. She spent decades with the Pittsburgh Police Department, where she rose to commander, and served as police chief at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a doctorate from Robert Morris University, both in Pittsburgh, according to a public biography.
- Brian O’Hara, as Deputy Mayor for Police Services and Public Safety Strategic Initiatives in Newark, NJ. He entered the role in July after serving as the city’s director of public safety, a role he took after 20 years with the police force. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice from Rutgers University.
When will the mayor announce the nomination?
Frey said at an event on Thursday that he believes the hiring committee has provided him with a “national-level” candidate, and he expects a formal job offer to come soon. The mayor said he hopes to announce the nominee by the end of the month.
The exact timing, though, may depend on how long it takes for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Arrest to conduct a background check on a mayoral nominee. BCA spokesman Jill Oliveira said background checks typically take three to four weeks. They check nominees for criminal records at the state or federal level, and work to review their past employment, military experience, education, and conduct other checks as needed or required by the position.
“We don’t usually do these checks,” Oliveira said, “but we understand how important it is for people in this community to know that their candidate has completed an unbiased third-party background.”
What happens next?
After Frey makes his decision, he must formally submit his nomination to the city council, which is expected to hold a public hearing. The council has the power to approve or reject those of his choice. It is too early to say how fast the council might act. It expedited Alexander’s process, approving his nomination in about two weeks.
Staff writers Liz Sawyer and Paul Walsh contributed to this report.