NJ official eyed for police chief in Minneapolis
MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Thursday that he is nominating a former public safety director from Newark, New Jersey, as his top pick for the city’s next police chief, at a time when the department is struggling with depleted staffing and the uncertainty of an ongoing federal investigation following the killing of George Floyd.
If confirmed by the City Council, Brian O’Hara, deputy mayor of Newark, would be taking over a department that some city leaders and community members had sought to abolish in recent years, and he would lead the agency through court-ordered changes that are expected as the result of the Department of Justice’s ongoing probe into policing practices.
“What we heard loud and clear is that people wanted a changemaker,” Frey said. “They wanted a reform-minded candidate that would both be accountable to the city of Minneapolis and our residents and also able to drive down crime in a serious way. … Minneapolis has been asking for change, and Brian O’Hara, the deputy mayor, is answering that call.”
O’Hara said Thursday that he will work toward driving down gun violence, building up ranks in the police department, and working with the community “to heal the heart of this great city.”
O’Hara said he plans to build a department that is so good that people of all races and backgrounds will want to be part of it.
“It should be clear by now to all that the idea that policing can simply go away, would be abolished, is just unrealistic. The problem of serious street crime is urgent and our communities demand and deserve good police to deal with that urgent need,” he said, later adding: “To those who are critical of policing and of this agency. I ask that you give us a chance.”
Frey intends to submit O’Hara’s name to the full City Council next week to begin the confirmation process.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and executive director of the Wayfinder Foundation, said the city’s decision to seek a police chief from outside was a good one.
Levy Armstrong, who was co-chair of the city’s Community Safety Work Group, said her group stressed a need for a culture shift within the department, something she says would have been difficult if the new chief came from within.