Sheriff says Brooklyn Center mayor’s comments have caused ‘significant confusion’

Left: Mayor Mike Elliott Right: Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson. (YouTube screenshot)

A sheriff overseeing the response to the Brooklyn Center demonstrations said the city’s mayor has caused “significant confusion” with his public criticism of police crowd-control tactics.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott said at a Wednesday press conference that “we have to approach policing in a different way, in a more humane way.”

“Gassing, in my opinion, is not a humane way of policing. Our police department and our officers are not involved in gassing,” he said.

The Brooklyn Center City Council voted Monday to ban the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, kettling, and chokeholds following the first night of unrest caused by the death of Daunte Wright. However, the ban doesn’t apply to the many outside law enforcement agencies that have been called in to help, including the Minnesota State Patrol, the Minnesota National Guard, and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.

Elliott said he has additional concerns about the sheriff’s decision to book curfew violators into jail during a pandemic, but admitted that he “did initially ask for mutual aid.”

One reporter asked Elliott if he has told outside law enforcement agencies to leave, since he does not “condone what they’re doing.”

“To my understanding, the sheriff’s department has policing powers throughout the county,” Elliott replied.

Following the press conference, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson asked Elliott to clarify if “Brooklyn Center continues to request mutual aid from state and other law enforcement agencies.”

“Yesterday, Brooklyn Center made a request through the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office to take a lead role in incident command, and the joint law enforcement response was able to continue under a unified command structure with the leadership of the Sheriff’s Office and many other agencies,” Hutchinson said in an email to Elliott obtained by Fluence Media.

“And yet today, at a press conference, you expressed concern about last night’s joint operations and the role of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office,” Hutchinson added.

He then said the city’s actions “since Sunday evening have created significant confusion.”

“In order to maintain peace and safety, it is critical that the City of Brooklyn Center communicate with its state, county, and local law enforcement partners regarding its ongoing need for mutual aid,” he continued.

Hutchinson pointed out that an emergency proclamation issued by Elliott clarifies that the city’s new ban on crowd-control tactics “does not limit any officer from utilizing appropriate law enforcement measures to protect themselves or the public.”

“In fact, the Mayoral Emergency Proclamation expressly authorizes law enforcement — including Brooklyn Center police officers as well as those responding from other agencies — to use the minimal level of force that is reasonable, necessary, and appropriate to respond to the civil unrest,” he noted.

Gov. Tim Walz defended the law enforcement response to the riots and said the police station “would have been burned down” without the use of non-lethal munitions.

“And my fear was the surrounding apartments would have burned, too,” he said at a Thursday press conference.

Elliott has also faced criticism this week for suggesting that police officers don’t necessarily need weapons for every traffic stop.