Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey is preparing to announce one of the most significant appointments of his political career: picking someone to lead the Police Department that prompted a global movement following George Floyd's murder.
The mayor interviewed three finalists — chosen from a national search — for the job last weekend, and has said he hopes to announce his selection by the end of this month.
Here's what we know about the search and what happens next.
Why is Minneapolis searching for a police chief?
Former Chief Medaria Arradondo announced his retirement in December, weeks after the embattled police department survived a bid to replace it with a new agency. Arradondo worked for the department for three decades, capping his career as the city's first Black police chief and overseeing it through Floyd's murder, the ensuing unrest and a political debate about the future of policing.
Arradondo served his last day with the department in January. Since then it has been led by Interim Chief Amelia Huffman, another MPD veteran who had been working as deputy chief.
What is the city looking for in a new chief?
The official job posting said the city was looking for "a visionary leader, able to communicate the need for and create long-lasting and systemic change within MPD." It said the next chief should have a track record of implementing changes, a willingness to work with state and federal agencies demanding changes to the department, and a commitment to repairing relationships in the community.
In a series of public meetings held earlier this year, residents said they wanted someone who is loyal to them, not just to the politicians who select the chief. Some said they wanted a chief who can improve accountability for police and reduce the department's use of force, which it has historically used disproportionately on Black residents. Others said reducing violent crime was a top priority. Many said they wanted a chief who could do both.
What challenges does the department face?
The department continues to face dual demands to both improve accountability for police and reduce violent crime. Minneapolis, like some other large American cities, has seen an increase in homicides and gun assaults in the past two years — upticks that haven't impacted residents equally. Meanwhile, people continue to debate how many officers the city should employ. An unprecedented number of officers left the department following Floyd's murder, leaving the city with about 300 fewer of them available to work.
The city is working to negotiate a legal agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which found that MPD had engaged in racial discrimination over the course of a decade. The U.S. Department of Justice, meanwhile, continues to conduct its own, similar probe, which has the potential to result in a consent decree that would outline a series of changes the city must make.
Who was involved in the search, and how did it work?
The city announced in March that it had hired a California-based company called Public Sector Search & Consulting to help run a national search for the next chief. It also said Cedric Alexander, a veteran law enforcement officer with a doctorate in psychology, would assist with that process. (Alexander has since been hired as Minneapolis' first community safety commissioner, overseeing the leaders of the city's police, fire, 911, emergency management and violence prevention programs.)
The firm worked with a 12-member search committee comprised of elected officials and community leaders to cement the details of a job description for the next chief and helped process their applications. The committee conducted interviews and submitted three finalists to the mayor, all of whom come from outside the department.
Who are the three finalists?
- Elvin Barren, became the chief in Southfield, Mich., in 2019, after working for 21 years in the Detroit Police Department, where he rose to the rank of deputy chief. He earned a master's degree in criminal justice from Bowling Green State University in Ohio and served eight years in the Navy as an operations specialist.
- RaShall Brackney, served as police chief in Charlottesville, Va., for about three years until she was fired by the city manager after surveys revealed major concerns among the rank-and-file. She filed a racial and gender discrimination lawsuit alleging her termination was retaliation for disbanding the city's SWAT team amid efforts to root out police misconduct. She spent decades with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, where she rose to commander, and served as police chief for George Washington University in Washington, D.C. According to public biographies, she has a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a doctorate from Robert Morris University, both in Pittsburgh.
- Brian O'Hara, works as deputy mayor for strategic initiatives for police services and public safety in Newark, N.J. He moved into that position in July after serving as the city's public safety director, a position he took after working for 20 years on the police force. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice from Rutgers University.
When will the mayor announce a nominee?
Frey said at an event Thursday that he believed the search committee had provided him with "national caliber" candidates and he anticipated that a formal job offer will come very soon. The mayor said he hoped to announce a nominee by the end of the month.
The precise timing, though, could depend on how long it takes the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct a background check on the mayor's nominee. Jill Oliveira, a spokesperson for the BCA, said background investigations typically take three to four weeks. They check to see if the nominee has a criminal history at the state or federal levels and make efforts to vet their past employment, military experience, education, and perform other checks as needed or required by a position.
"We don't typically do these checks," Oliveira said, "but we understand how important it is for the people of that community to know that an unbiased, third-party background on their candidate has been done."
What happens next?
After Frey makes a decision, he must formally submit a nomination to the City Council, which is expected to hold a public hearing. The council has the ability to approve or reject the person he selects. It's too early to tell how quickly the council might move. It expedited the process for Alexander, approving his nomination over the span of roughly two weeks.
Staff writers Liz Sawyer and Paul Walsh contributed to this report.