Minneapolis Police 3rd Precinct future: Public debates new building

Emotions ran high at a community meeting Thursday night centered around where the city of Minneapolis should rebuild its third police precinct.

The 3rd Precinct facility was abandoned and set on fire following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd. Minneapolis officials want community members to choose between two sites, the former precinct facility at 3000 Minnehaha Avenue and a vacant City-owned lot at 2600 Minnehaha Avenue.

At a community conversation Thursday night, most of the comments made were that the discussion about rebuilding the facility is much too premature.

"Why are we having this conversation when, as far as crime goes or as far as police response times go, nothing has changed? It still is terrible, but it's not changed, so it's not like we're worse off with them not around," said Lydia Kauppi from the Longfellow neighborhood.

"People are like, ‘let's bring the conversation back, and let's talk about it, sure,’ but you can't just push a new building in there," said Aaron Stephenson also from the Longfellow neighborhood. "We need to have a way, way, way deeper discussion about the Minneapolis Police Department."

Speaking to a full room at the Midtown Global Market, city officials said they looked at nearly 30 sites to replace the precinct building.

Barbara O’Brien, Minneapolis’ director of property services, also explained the criteria the site needed to meet, including that it was within the third precinct boundaries, it was large enough, it had multiple points of entry and exit, it was zoned appropriately and it was easily accessible. The city’s preferred criteria included that it was centrally located within precinct boundaries, it had room to expand in the future, it was along public transit route, it had access to fiber optics and it was owned by the city.

Residents said they’re frustrated the city’s survey asking the community for input about the third precinct cannot be completed unless they pick one of the city’s two proposed locations. They feel the culture at the Minneapolis Police Department needs to be examined and changed before they want to talk about rebuilding.

"I think what many people here are suggesting is that not only is the process by which y’all are trying to ramrod this precinct into the neighborhood insufficient. You could have started by actually asking what services are needed," one resident said.

"There has been nothing, absolutely nothing to evidence that MPD has changed its culture and its ways. I refuse to have my tax dollars and other people's tax dollars who live in the third precinct to build a gleaming new fortress for obnoxious officers and a police department that would kill another George Floyd today if they could get away with it," said another resident.

The officers assigned to the third precinct have been working out of a facility downtown. When Heather Johnston, the interim city operations officer, was asked why the area needs a new building to begin with, she said officers need to be closer to the community where they're being dispatched so they can respond to calls.

"The other piece is we want the officers to be able to develop positive relationships, which I will acknowledge they have not in the past," Johnston said.