Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced on Monday his pick for the new commissioner of community safety to replace Cedric Alexander who left the position to retire after just one year on the job earlier this month.
Frey named Fourth Judicial District (Hennepin County) Chief Judge Toddrick Barnette to fill the position, which will need to be approved by the Minneapolis City Council by a vote expected later this month.
The high-profile position which oversees police, fire, 911, emergency management, and neighborhood safety was notably paying Alexander upwards of $300,000 per year — the highest staff salary within the city enterprise.
Frey stated in his Monday press conference that the commissioner job description had been “substantially” revised during the search for a new commissioner based on feedback from community, faith, philanthropic, school, and business leaders, as well as elected officials from the city, county and state levels, and others.
People the city spoke to wanted to see the position filled with someone who had deep managerial experience, Frey said, as well as someone who had broad experience in safety. Frey said Barnette fit that bill with his “broad and diverse experience.”
In addition to serving as assistant chief judge and a district court judge in Hennepin County prior to being elected as chief judge in 2020, Barnette has worked as a prosecutor and public defender. In his position as chief judge, Barnette oversaw 63 judges in the district, Frey said.
Frey stressed that the focus of the changes to the job description would be on managing and coordinating the five departments. Frey said that while that was part of the position previously, they’ve better defined expectations for the job over the last year.
Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara stated during the press conference that Barnette has been a key figure in helping the police department in dealing with the “explosion” of juvenile crime in Minneapolis. Barnette then explained that some changes had been made within the system to hold juveniles involved in carjackings and auto thefts in custody instead of releasing them immediately. Additionally, Barnette said juveniles were being assigned to particular judges as opposed to being randomly assigned on the court calendars.
“Judge Barnette has deep knowledge of the legal system, has demonstrated a clear commitment to community engagement, and will be a strong leader for the City of Minneapolis. I have known him a long time and look forward to continuing to partner with him in this new role. Along with Chief O’Hara and others, there is much work to do to build on recent progress on violence prevention and making our communities safer.”
Barnette was mentioned by The Washington Post in 2021 following Minneapolis’ record $27 million wrongful death settlement to the family of George Floyd, which was announced during jury selection in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. The Washington Post claimed that an unnamed official within the city said that the city “consulted with Hennepin County Chief District Judge Toddrick S. Barnette, who told the city it could proceed” with the settlement while the Chauvin trial proceedings were ongoing. A response from Barnette at the time was not included in the article.
Notably, Moriarty was quoted in The Washington Post article, which was prior to her election as Hennepin County attorney, and stated that if she had been Chauvin’s attorney, she would request a mistrial over the payout taking place during the trial.
Crime Watch Minneapolis has tracked some criminal cases involving Barnette as judge and noted that in May of this year, Barnette stayed the five-year prison term of self-admitted gang member Bobby Floyd Miller, 34, in a downward dispositional departure after Miller pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The case involved a June 2022 incident in which shots were fired at Nicollet Towers in downtown Minneapolis. Police arrived and immediately encountered Miller who attempted to flee on foot. When he was apprehended, a handgun was found in Miller’s pocket. Miller is prohibited from possessing firearms due to a prior felony conviction on third-degree assault just three months prior in March 2022.
Two days after Barnette stayed Miller’s prison sentence, Miller allegedly shot two people on May 19 of this year, again at Nicollet Towers. Witnesses identified Miller to police as the shooter. Miller was located several days later on May 26 and was arrested. Miller has remained in custody since his arrest and is charged in the new case with second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Miller is scheduled for jury trial in the case next month.
Barnette didn’t outline any specifics in the press conference as to his plans for the job, nor on how to bolster police staffing which is at historic lows for the city, but indicated that he would work with the five department heads and lean on their experience and expertise in their fields for advice.
Barnette said he and the mayor talked a lot about “accountability and transparency” in moving forward with the community. He said they have a lot of work to do in that area but that it’s important.
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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.