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MPD, Park Police partnership at events unclear, TC Pride still on

MPD, Park Police partnership at events unclear, TC Pride still on

Uncertainty surrounding the role of Minneapolis police officers at city park events remains despite park board commissioners reinstating their partnership.

Following the murder of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody in late May 2020, the then Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) during their park events and for certain MPD calls.

Leading up to this summer’s park events — including Twin Cities Pride that’s expecting around 350,000 people — in April, park board superintendent Alfred Bangoura sent a resolution to the board, calling on them to repeal the severed ties.

Superintendent Bangoura outlining the Minneapolis Park Police Department (MPPD) has “limited capacity to provide special event security and cannot match pre-pandemic levels without supplemental assistance.”

With a 5-3 vote during a board meeting on May 4 the board repealed it — along with the park event partnership, the repeal also opens the door for Minneapolis park police officers to respond to MPD calls.

But, with only days away from Twin Cities Pride, a representative tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it’s still “early in the process” in regards to bringing MPD officers back to park events.

The rep also says that the Minneapolis Park Police Department (MPPD) has 33 sworn in police officers (including its police chief, lieutenants and sergeants).

“I have confidence in our staff,” Becka Thompson, MPRB commissioner for district 2, said. Thompson voted in favor of repealing the axed partnership.

“We’re building our way towards normal with a new system,” Thompson added. “I guess [that] is how I would describe it, but I definitely am supportive of trying to bolster what we have, because I know we are still very much taxed.”

Months before the board’s vote, organizers with Twin Cities Pride were making their own plans — including bringing on private security.

“We do a lot of strategic planning around every type of scenario from whether to you know, acts of harm against our community. So we take it very seriously and plan for a full year going into it, Andi Otto, Twin Cities Pride’s director of operations, said.

Sadly, Otto and his team were reminded of the importance of that preparation just days before the event when 31 men connected to a hate group were arrested near a Pride event in Idaho.

Police there report a 911 caller tipped them off after seeing what looked like a “little army” pile into a moving van. Police say the men were in tactical gear and feared they were going to the Pride event — the men were arrested on suspicion of rioting.

“It’s heartbreaking, but we know that there are still acts of harm against our community. We’re aware of that,” Otto said, adding: “We take a look at that and we just sit down at the table and continue to have the conversation. Unfortunately, it’s not something new to us in this community.”

Twin Cities Pride will be held at Lorning Park — Otto says patrols at the park will include their private security and MPPD officers. He said with an event their size, the city requires them to have police officers.

MPD officers will be patrolling Sunday’s parade route. In a statement regarding the partnership with the MPPD, specifically regarding park events, a spokesperson with the MPD sent the following:

MPD maintained an uninterrupted relationship with the Minneapolis Park Police to the goal of promoting safety and peace in our city and its parks and for officer safety. That includes responding jointly to priority one emergency calls when needed. MPD consistently provided patrol and 911 response at park property during the hours in which Park Police Officers were not regularly on patrol. We continue this valuable collaboration with the Park Police as we do with all our partner agencies to create a safe environment.

Twin Cities Pride organizers, while confident in the security plan, ask those attending, and other community members, to “say something, if you see something.”