Minneapolis’ new public safety commissioner says he regrets the “tone” of his social media responses to community members asking critical questions about his new downtown policing strategy, responding to accusations of lack of professionalism of Thursday night’s tweet storm.
“The way I engaged with voters last night on Twitter did not meet the standards I hold for myself and the Community Safety Office team,” said Cedric Alexander, who has been on the job for two months, in a statement Friday. “I care deeply about the success of our community safety work in Minneapolis, and I know that building trust happens one interaction at a time. I regret the tone of my responses and pledge respectful engagement. and constructive with the communities we serve.”
Alexander’s litany of tweets began late Thursday afternoon, in response to Minneapolis resident Amity Foster, who tagged Commissioner and Mayor Jacob Frey in a post asking why the city had stationed nine squads of empty police on Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. “What is this trying to show?” said Fostera reference to “Operation Endeavour,” a data-centric policing initiative launched by city officials last month.
“It shows an effort to increase the visibility of the police throughout the city center and throughout the city if you didn’t see them, you would be complaining, wouldn’t you?” Alexander replied. “Enough of two faces already talking out of both sides of your mouth!”
“I understand that you have received a lot of criticism regarding Op Endeavour”, replied Foster. “But you came to Minneapolis where police-community relations are strained at best. Visibility in and of itself is not public safety, it just isn’t.”
To which Alexander replied“Actually, you’re wrong again. I take no criticism of the operation effort, quite the contrary…ask the people of North Minneapolis where I bet you don’t live there.”
In a statement, Foster said she was happy to see Alexander’s response to her posts on Friday.
“As the chief public safety official in Minneapolis, the commissioner’s behavior sets the tone for how Minneapolis police engage with members of the community… What we saw yesterday was the opposite of this…I really hope this inspires leadership to consider residents more fully and underscores the fact that we should all be more involved in what public safety is for Minneapolis.”
Since being appointed by Frey as the city’s first community safety commissioner, Alexander has vowed to work to better coordinate security services and restore trust in Minneapolis. “We’re really going to have to do all of this,” he told the city council in August. Many criticized Alexander for taking on a divisive tone with the critics he vowed to unite. “I don’t care what you think” he said twitter user Jim Kruzitski, who said Alexander “irrationally berated” Minneapolis residents. “What interests me is protecting this community, not exposing the police who are trying 24/7 to protect us.”
From there, other users began to chime in on the conversation, with some calling out Alexander’s flippant tone. Alexander spent the next two hours tweeting replies to more critics, posting a total of 17 times.
“Slavery is over. Nobody controls anybody anymore…sorry,” he has answered at a post calling him “another cop [Frey] can’t control.”
“Stop Winning” he said to someone accusing him of being rude.
“I don’t need to know you. Your hate speaks for itself,” he says to a poster noticing his annual salary of $300,000.
By the end of Thursday, some were calling for Alexander to be disciplined. “This kind of condescension and obnoxiousness should be grounds for suspension or termination,” said WCCO radio host Jason DeRusha.
“The biggest problems with Minneapolis and its police department are a lack of trust and a lack of leadership,” said Charlie Rybak, co-founder of online news service Southwest Voices and son of former mayor RT Rybak. . “It will be difficult to solve either of these problems if the highest paid employee in Minneapolis history spends his time yelling at the people he works for on Twitter.”
This isn’t the first time a Minneapolis official has come under fire for social media. In 2019, the city introduced its first-ever social media policy for elected officials, after then-City Council member Alondra Cano was criticized for blocking voters, including Star Tribune reporters, from his Twitter account. Former council member Phillipe Cunningham broke the city’s code of ethics when he deleted a Fourth Ward Facebook discussion last fall, an ethics committee has heard.
When asked if Alexander was subject to the city’s social media policies, city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said: ‘We are reviewing the situation but have not taken no decision.”
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