Cedric Alexander wins council approval as Minneapolis’ first Community Safety Commissioner
Cedric Alexander will be Minneapolis’ first community safety commissioner after the city council — in a split vote — confirmed his nomination on Thursday.
During a tense conversation, some council members welcomed Alexander’s appointment, saying they believed he was the right man to help the city deliver on its promise to transform public safety after the murder of George Floyd by the police two years ago.
Others have raised concerns about his track record elsewhere or the process of creating the new agency he will be responsible for overseeing.
“It’s a very tough vote, one of the most important votes I think this term,” said council member Elliott Payne, one of the two who ultimately abstained.
Alexander will hold a unique position in Minneapolis, helping oversee leaders of the city’s police, fire, 911, emergency management and violence prevention programs. This work has been at the center of recent discussions about how elected leaders should respond to demands from residents to improve police accountability and combat an increase in violent crime.
“Today is a historic day in the city of Minneapolis,” said City Council Speaker Andrea Jenkins, one of eight council members to vote in favor of Alexander’s nomination. “We’ve been talking for two and a half years about reinventing public safety.”
Alexander is on track to lead a new community safety office, which elected officials are expected to set up in separate processes later this year. He will serve in Mayor Jacob Frey’s cabinet, helping him oversee the day-to-day operations of offices related to city security.
Alexander, 67, has spent decades working in law enforcement and has a doctorate in clinical psychology. Before retiring, he worked in various local, state and federal offices, including in DeKalb County, Georgia, where he served as Director of Public Safety, a role similar to the one he holds. currently.
Board member Andrew Johnson kicked off the board’s discussion of Alexander’s nomination on Thursday, saying: “It’s a big role, and it’s a really big moment, and I think based on the information we lay out…I think he’s the best person I can imagine in that role right now.”
Council member Aisha Chughtai said she could not vote in favor of Alexander’s nomination as she left Tuesday’s public hearing with ‘more questions and even bigger concerns’ than before. . She said she found his answers about what he learned from handling shootings involving inadequate officers and was troubled by what she read in a report outlining details of an investigation into a sexual harassment allegation involving Alexander in DeKalb County.
“I know we need a culture change in policing in this city…and after seeing the responses and having the conversations I’ve had, I don’t believe this is the right one. no one to change this culture. I sincerely hope I’m wrong,” she said.
The Star Tribune asked DeKalb County officials for a copy of the report; so far they have only published an executive summary. The summary says local investigators looked at two allegations: one alleging that he made unwanted sexual advances to a lieutenant (a claim that Alexander “categorically denied” and that investigators described as “she said he said”), and a second allegation that he retaliated against that employee (a claim the summary called “baseless”).
Alexander told reporters after the vote that he was “carefully vetted” by multiple agencies, including Minnesota’s state agency that does background checks, and he believes those issues are “distractions.”
“Quite frankly, none of that was ever a problem anywhere, until I came here,” he said.
Alexander said he is pleased that board members have raised their concerns and is committed to working with each of them moving forward.
Frey defended Alexander, calling him a proven leader with a long history of implementing change. “Any time you’re in a leadership position in this country, you face criticism,” the mayor said. “It will inevitably be the case.”
The board ultimately approved Alexander’s nomination by an 8-3 vote. Jenkins, Vice President Linea Palmisano, and board members Emily Koski, LaTrisha Vetaw, Michael Rainville, Lisa Goodman, Johnson, and Jamal Osman voted in favor. . Council members Chughtai, Jeremiah Ellison and Robin Wonsley voted against. Council members Payne and Jason Chavez abstained.
The vote clears the way for Alexander to officially start work on Monday, although he said he plans to start meeting with city workers on Thursday to find out more about their offices, which they are doing well and what they need to improve.
Alexander said his priorities include improving personnel, accountability and cooperation among city security agencies, and working to restore trust in a community still recovering from the aftermath of Floyd’s murder and a increase in violent crime.
“We have to find a strategy now,” Alexander said. “Not Monday, but now.”