MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Minneapolis Public Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander came out swinging against critics of the city, urging residents to "stay in the fight," during a Ward 11 public safety meeting Tuesday night in which he also addressed concerns over police use of drones and surveillance technology.
In his emotional closing remarks at the meeting, which was hosted by Council member Emily Koski the meeting at the Pearl Park Recreation Center, Alexander acknowledged that Minneapolis faces police staffing shortages and a rise in crime that can often be demoralizing for residents.
"I know you have your moments. You get angry. You get sad. You get mad. You get frustrated. Every time you turn on the news, there's another carjacking. There's another robbery. There's another shooting," he said.
But he said for the city staff in attendance, which included two police inspectors and the interim director of the Office of Violence Prevention, the task of making the city safer is "more than a job," but a "fight" they’re committed to seeing through.
"The 550 officers that make up the Minneapolis Police Department are the ones who stayed for the fight. They didn't leave. So I encourage you to stay in the fight with me," he said.
Alexander, who started his role about a week ago after the Minneapolis City Council voted to approve his nomination on Aug. 4, urged residents to push back against critics who paint Minneapolis in an entirely negative light.
"You hear people say … 'Why do I stay here? I'm moving out.' You've got to push back on that. Don't be complicit to it by saying nothing. Say 'I'm staying and fighting for this city.'"
During the Q&A, he also addressed concerns about police use of technologies like drones and facial recognition software. Next week, the Minneapolis Public Health and Safety Committee will hear a proposal from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) about acquiring drones.
Alexander argued police needed to adopt new technologies to make up for staffing shortages but promised the department would be transparent about what they are using and why.
"We're going to need this technology quite frankly to supplant this number of officers that we no longer have anymore. We're going to need that technology to close that gap and help us fight for him and keep our community safe," he said. "But I'm not going to ever introduce anything to you in which you yourself are not going to be informed of and understand the utilization of it and have a voice in it."
The MPD inspectors from the two precincts in south Minneapolis (the fifth precinct in southwest Minneapolis and the third precinct in southeast) also spoke.
New officers are joining MPD
Fifth Prescient Inspector Katie Blackwell said MPD has a class of 18 cadets who will be graduating in September and that there are several officers in the process of transferring to MPD from other departments.
"Even though we're facing a little bit of short staffing, we're not going to lower standards of who we're hiring. We want to hire with the community wants us to hire, but we also have to make sure that they're qualified to be here," she said
Car thieves on joyrides for fries
Blackwell said there has been a rise in auto thefts in the fifth precinct but the thieves often steal whatever they can from vehicles, visit gas stations or fast food restaurants, and then ditch the cars nearby.
"And they literally are just grabbing them, using your financial stuff and generally moving on. And we recover most vehicles within the week," she said.
Police: Burglaries are still a risk when working from home
Third Precinct Inspector Jose Gomez said his officers are seeing a rise in burglaries. He said he’s noticed residents who are working from home don’t always think to lock their doors.
"I can't tell you how many calls officers have responded when they'll find somebody in the house with the resident, like hiding in the bathroom or somewhere else. So just because you're home on your laptop in a room, probably because you don't want to get bothered by the noises, just be mindful of that even if you're home," he said.