“We’re at capacity and can’t add any more,” Shane Stenzel, permitting manager for Minneapolis parks events, said at a recent meeting of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
The MPRB, alongside the Minneapolis Park Police Department, is going through a fragile time as the city returns to life once known before the pandemic. With major events back on the books for this summer, Minneapolis park officials say their police department doesn’t have enough officers or resources to handle the whole lot.
“We have an increase in crime throughout the park system, we have fewer park police resources than 20 years ago, and we face the challenge of trying to hold safe public events in the park system,” Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto said. park commissioners in early April.
This need and the increase in events from the heart of the pandemic led MPRB Superintendent Alfred Bangoura to ask the board to reconsider its current relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department. – the one who has been whole since shortly after the murder of George Floyd.
RELATED: Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board votes unanimously to sever ties with Minneapolis Police Department
Nine days after the murder of George Floyd, the park board has severed ties with the MPD – particularly with their help at park events and assisting with MPD appeals, citing loss of community trust as the main reason .
Today, almost two years later, in a letter to the council, Superintendent Bangoura states, in part, “The MPRB Park Police Department has limited capacity to provide special event security and cannot reach pre-pandemic levels without additional assistance.”
Bangoura would like the board to rescind the resolution that ended their partnership with MPD to help with future events. The board’s administration and finance committee will vote on the matter this Wednesday; if approved, it would then proceed to a full board vote.
“Our discussion will likely be vigorous and there could be some sentimentality,” said Becka Thompson, first-term park commissioner for Minneapolis’ 2nd District.
“I hope people recognize that we’re trying to do our best through everyone, like deep down,” Thompson added.
Thompson said she understands some of the trust lost with MPD has not been restored and expects a meaningful conversation with her colleagues before casting her vote.
“If we’re going to move forward in the community, if we’re going to try to right some of these wrongs, we have to stay in communication with each other for sure,” Thompson said. “But so are we – how much are we going to lose before we start moving forward?”
An MPD spokesperson would not comment on ongoing discussions within the park board, but said: ‘We look forward to hearing more if the repeal goes ahead.’
Asking the MPD for help isn’t the first step the park board has taken to help with its safety workload. It says the Minnesota State Patrol, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Metro Police Department and University of Minnesota Police Department have all said they can’t help.
In a statement, the Minnesota State Patrol claims the following for being unable to provide assistance:
“The primary mission of the Minnesota State Patrol is to promote traffic safety through assistance, education, and enforcement on Minnesota’s highways. With our commitment to road safety and related activities such as HEAT patrols, street racing patrols, the Twin Cities Auto Show and the Minnesota State Fair, we are unable to allocate resources for this request.“
A representative from the Metro Transit Police Department sent the following statement:
“The Metro Transit Police Department faces its own staffing issues and lacks the capacity to take on additional duties for other agencies. MTPD already provides coverage in eight counties and approximately 85 communities served by Metro Transit. It hosts over 125 events a year, such as the Twins games served by Metro Transit. However, it works in conjunction with the park board on events such as the Twin Cities Marathon that involve both Metro Transit and the park board. “