Since the killing of Daunte Wright on Sunday, April 11, 2021, we have received questions seeking to understand why the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) was engaged in the law enforcement response in Brooklyn Center, and what role or responsibility UMPD has in responding to off-campus events. We appreciate the desire of our community to better understand these decisions.
In the spirit of transparency, we have prepared the following responses to the questions we are receiving around which multi-agency efforts we are part of and when/how we respond when called upon.
What is the Minnesota Multi-Agency Command?
The Multi-Agency Command can be initiated by the State of Minnesota under the management of the Department of Public Safety. Its purpose is to respond to major incidents (natural disasters, public emergencies, etc.) that require a comprehensive and coordinated response across multiple jurisdictions. This response can include the Minnesota National Guard, the Department of Natural Resources, and multiple other local agencies depending on the situation. The UMPD responds to emergencies when requested by the State of Minnesota.
What is the West Command Task Force?
Last year, after the killing of George Floyd and related events, the police chiefs of 35 municipalities in Hennepin County, with the exception of the City of Minneapolis, formed a group called the West Command Task Force.
The task force is a collaborative response to assist the members of the group with emergencies that exceed their individual capacities. All 35 police departments pledged some of their force to assist one another when needed. UMPD is a member of this task force and assists other jurisdictions in need of immediate police support with the understanding that other task force members will respond to assist the University of Minnesota and UMPD when and if help is needed on our campus.
How does the West Command Task Force work?
The Chiefs of each department in the task force have collectively agreed as to the commitments of each department, the equipment they would provide, and the command structure (Hennepin County would provide the overall leadership) for the West Command. When one member of the task force requests assistance, the remaining members coordinate their staffing, in partnership with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, to manage the deployment of the combined team.
Are there any other agreements similar to the West Command Task Force?
The University has no agreements with other agencies in the Twin Cities similar to that used with the West Command Task Force. However, UMPD does have agreements with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for major crime investigations, the Minnesota State Patrol for traffic accident investigations, and the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office Crime Lab for on-scene forensic services.
What was UMPD’s role in Brooklyn Center?
At the request of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, UMPD officers responded to the scene in Brooklyn Center on Sunday evening (April 11) and Monday evening (April 12) as part of UMPD’s participation in the West Command Task Force. The UMPD deployed a group of 12 officers who have special training in crowd control and who deploy as a single team. Per the standard protocol in situations that involve crowd control, the officers deployed with their department-issued tactical gear. On both evenings, our officers’ responsibilities included protection of life, property and overall support. They made no arrests and used no crowd control agents (pepper spray, tear gas, or any other munition) of any sort. Their role was to support the City of Brooklyn Center.
Why do we see UMPD responding to events off campus?
The UMPD participates with other law enforcement agencies in what are often called mutual aid responses. When an agency requests assistance in situations where additional resources are necessary, every collaborating agency evaluates its ability to provide that aid and makes officers available under the command of the requesting agency. This type of cooperation makes it possible to respond to large-scale emergencies that span multiple jurisdictions, and in communities lacking the necessary resources to respond to a situation. The West Command Task Force is an example of mutual aid. The University community has benefited from this type of cooperation in the past, for example when a high-profile visitor or speaker visits the campus and additional resources are needed or, as in 2014 following a Gopher Hockey victory, when we needed help in the Dinkytown area.
What role do we assume when we respond outside of our jurisdiction?
While UMPD officers are assigned to the on-scene commander when they respond to an emergency outside of our campus community, UMPD officers remain under the direct management of a UMPD law enforcement supervisor.
How does this engagement align with our broad commitments to equity and, in particular, with regard to policing?
This question is a foundational part of our broader work with Dr. Cedric Alexander to reimagine the ways that the University and UMPD specifically can establish processes that build trust between UMPD officers and the communities they serve. As Dr. Alexander's report highlights, this requires examining how UMPD presents itself and engages with our community. UMPD is open to hearing and responding to the community's challenges. We are also open to transparency with and for the community around the rationale for when UMPD engages. This transparency is required for trust to grow.
In situations like those confronted this week, we recognize that UMPD’s participation in incidents away from campus creates a perception that the UMPD is operating outside of their primary responsibility or engaging in actions that are inconsistent with our values. For UMPD to respond to situations involving inappropriate use of force that engender high levels of community response suggests for some that the University has chosen the side of law enforcement over that of those harmed by violence. This is not the case.
As a small department, serving our community in the midst of a large metropolitan area, the UMPD must find ways to benefit from collaborative agencies when additional assistance is needed. Preparedness means to be ready for large-scale events and emergencies. That preparedness includes providing space for peaceful protests and preventing those events from unsafely escalating beyond what is lawful. It means being prepared for an active shooter situation and the community lock-down that results. It means being ready for natural disasters or environmental catastrophes. Like other small police departments, UMPD must count on the help of other well-trained officers from other departments around the region. If we expect others to come to our aid when we are in need, we must reciprocate—but we respond primarily in a support role.
Can we rethink how and when we engage in mutual aid with other agencies?
We are willing to rethink how or when UMPD participates in multi-agency work and look forward to working with the M Safe Implementation Team on this question. These changes take consultation and planning, but it is time we are more than willing to invest.