MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - With violence in Minneapolis on the rise, more and more people are shouting with frustration that it has to stop. Now, a war of words has unfolded between Ward 4 Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham and Mayor Jacob Frey.
Cunningham posted a letter to the mayor on his Facebook page, laying blame on the mayor for not having a plan to stop the violence. The letter reads in part, "I cannot try to solve this gun violence all by myself. We cannot wait until we have 600 more officers or even just the 200 who have left since last year before something is done. Why are Black lives in north Minneapolis not being prioritized urgently?"
Mayor Frey fired back in an email calling Cunningham’s message insincere and political maneuvering.
It reads, in part, "your public commitment to defunding and abolishing the police department, your absolute lack of support for adequate police staffing levels…have detracted from the essential work at great cost to the city of Minneapolis."
The mayor went on to write that "the notion that you – and you alone – are the one person working to solve this crisis is an insult to every local elected official, every city staff – from MPD and OVP to 911 dispatchers – and every community member who has poured themselves into this work.
The mayor invited Cunningham to partner up to develop a plan.
Sunday, after a violent night in Minneapolis where one person was killed in a shooting and a total of seven people were shot over the span of eight hours, Cunningham pushed the burden of solving the spike in crime onto the mayor – if he is going to ignore the council's solutions to deal with public safety.
"It is on the mayor to come up with a strategy and plan if he’s not going to implement what we brought forward," said Cunningham.
"We can’t take much more of this in north Minneapolis and we deserve better," added Cunningham.
Meanwhile, families living where gun violence is the worst say, while change is necessary, violence needs to be addressed now.
"We need a cultural shift in the department and we need the proper staffing levels," said Northside Achievement Zone CEO Sondra Samuels.
Samuels says, especially with recent shootings of children the last few weeks, city leaders need to address gun violence now.
"This is my neighborhood this is my community I live here I work here I play here and we need help," said Samuels.
"If all Black Lives Matter then let's get behind all Black lives mattering," said Samuels.
She says she believes in making changes to improve the Minneapolis police department, but not at the cost of safety in her neighborhood.
"I believe it can happen but we’ll have to be balanced in our approach," said Samuels. "We’ll have to work alongside the police officers, not against them, and we need to demand accountability and we have to care when a Black life is taken no matter who takes that life."
Full letter from Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham:
Good afternoon, Mayor-
Last night, 78 shots were fired in one incident in my ward. Within a twenty minute period there were five other incidents of shots fired throughout the Ward last night, as well. I was informed by constituents that about two hours ago, an Amazon truck was hit with bullets near Loring School. This is just a few of the incidents that have taken place in the last 24 hours in just Ward 4. There’s also been a significant amount of gunfire in Ward 5, including a homicide yesterday. What is the plan for addressing gun violence in North Minneapolis for this summer and beyond? I brought forward a staff direction last year that has experienced barriers from MPD in implementation and we are just not seeing the kind of support necessary for successful implementation of our focused deterrence strategies more broadly.
I cannot try to solve this gun violence all by myself. We cannot wait until we have 600 more officers or even just the 200 who have left since last year before something is done. Why are Black lives in North Minneapolis not being prioritized urgently? If this kind of gun violence was happening anywhere in the city, there would be press conferences declaring, "Enough is enough." What is enough for us? When do we get to reach that threshold? More people have died at Logan and Lowry than 38th and Chicago. Where is our press conference? I am absolutely beyond frustrated and angry quite frankly at how it feels like citywide leadership has shrugged their shoulders at what we’re dealing with here because they don’t have to live in the middle of it every day.
Mayor, you are the ultimate authority for public safety in this city. What is your plan to stop this? Where is the work for us to be doing this work comprehensively and based on evidence-based strategies and quality MPD surveillance and intel? I’ve seen you say in your talking points now how we need to be "building comprehensive systems of public safety" and "disrupting cycles of violence," but we haven’t seen any evidence of that work here. I’m exhausted. It feels like I have tried to carry this work alone for over three years now, but without MPD, we don’t have a formal system of accountability involved in the work and without that the whole strategy of focused deterrence falls apart. Are we just expected to accept this level of violence? Are we just going to be told there’s nothing that can be done? I can’t be the one to reach out to the DEA or the ATF to send help. I can’t be the one to define a clear strategy to implement (I tried, but it essentially got rejected by MPD staff). I can’t be the one to bring in the additional capacity necessary for successful implementation of a strategy. What is being done to stop this violence? I want to know. My constituents want to know. We deserve better than this.
I have also cced Chief Arradondo and Director Cotton given their work is directly related to whatever plan of yours would be implemented.
Full letter from Mayor Jacob Frey:
Thanks so much for the note. I was on the Northside earlier today, at a news conference hosted by community. The message we delivered? Enough is enough. So, we’re aligned on that much. The rest of your message is insincere at best and shallow political maneuvering at worst. That you published this e-mail immediately upon sending it makes discerning its intent relatively easy.
Over the last three years, I’ve been exceedingly disappointed not just with your inconsistency but the complete and utter lack of follow through on the work at hand. You’ve declined every opportunity to partner and now seek to shift blame and save political face.
Your public commitment to defunding and abolishing the Police Department, your absolute lack of support for adequate police staffing levels (there is a long and clear record here), and your unmitigated inconsistency on this topic have detracted from the essential work at great cost to the city of Minneapolis.
You sell yourself short. Of course, as council members have done quite often when they are seeking support from other levels of government, there are ways to request it. If you want law enforcement officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives stationed on the Northside, you know full well that is a request you can make – not just a thing you can complain about on Facebook. Feel free to send a draft of such a request to my office for review and support. That is of course one of the virtues of your election certificate. I’ve asked you for your position (beyond empty rhetoric) on similar topics in the past and you have declined.
On a personal level, it is discouraging to see you so overtly centering yourself in this conversation. The notion that you – and you alone – are the one person working to solve this crisis ("I cannot try to solve this gun violence all by myself") is an insult to every local elected official, every city staff – from MPD and OVP to 911 dispatchers – and every community member who has poured themselves into this work.
Amid historic staffing challenges, we’ve repeatedly outlined plans to maintain core enforcement and patrol services while increasing investments in the Office of Violence Prevention. We are consistently trying to do more with less for our communities who need it most. I would encourage you to support Chief Arradondo’s request for increased staffing levels moving forward, even where you have opposed such requests in the past. I would be happy to partner with you on developing a plan. Based on my experience attempting to work with you, I do not believe you are interested in doing that.
Again, thanks for the note.
Mayor, City of Minneapolis