Minneapolis police reforms leader hired following George Floyd’s murder retiring after a year

Jul 21, 2023, 12:12 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The law enforcement veteran appointed to oversee reforms at the Minneapolis police department in the wake of George Floyd’s killing plans to retire in September after enduring sharp criticism in his first year on the job.

Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander announced his retirement Thursday, The Star Tribune reported. Alexander defended his work overseeing five public safety agencies, including the police and fire departments, following criticism from some city council members and the public over the slow pace of reforms.

“Whoever takes the torch here from me, they’re on a firm foundation,” Alexander, 68, said to the newspaper. He said people now feel safe when they come into the city.

The Minneapolis Police Department overhaul began following Floyd’s 2020 death after a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes. Floyd’s death sparked mass protests around the world and forced a national reckoning on racial injustice.

Alexander, a former police chief who spent four decades in law enforcement, set out to improve coordination among departments and rebuild trust in the city. He said that work and the effort to implement the Justice Department’s recommendations to improve policing by eliminating racial bias and excessive force will continue after he’s gone.

He said programs like the multijurisdictional “Operation Endeavor” helped reduce shootings and carjackings in the city last year although crime statistics suggest that decline may have begun even before that program started.

Alexander has said he lacked the resources to complete ambitious projects like replacing the city’s five police precincts with community centers offering social services to help fight addiction and homelessness.

In an early misstep, Alexander lashed out on Twitter at critics who questioned his strategy of parking empty squad cars downtown to deter crime — even accusing one person of “two-faced talking from both sides of your mouth.” But he quickly apologized for his tone.

Recently, there was criticism about a lack of communication from Alexander’s office and his lack of public appearances. But he said the criticism wasn’t a factor in his decision to retire.

“That’s just kind of par for the course,” Alexander said, noting that administrators are always admonished for “not moving fast enough.”

Mayor Jacob Frey praised Alexander’s work, saying he successfully coordinated security for a Taylor Swift concert and several community events that brought large crowds to downtown Minneapolis earlier this year without any major problems.

“When Minneapolis needed strong leadership and a clear vision, he answered the call,” Frey said in a statement Thursday. “I am grateful for his dedication to our city and his excellent work to curb violent crime and make a comprehensive safety system a reality.”

Alexander’s supporters say he didn’t have much chance to succeed.

“I think he was the right man for the wrong time and the wrong city,” said Lisa Clemons, a retired police sergeant and founder of the street outreach group A Mother’s Love Initiative. “I don’t believe he was given the tools needed to make change, like the council and mayor gave our chief.”

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Minneapolis police reforms leader hired following George Floyd’s murder retiring after a year