So-called “violence interrupters,” civilian activists designed to deescalate volatile situations without police involvement, cannot be dispatched to 911 emergencies according to a city spokesperson.
Crime Watch Minneapolis recorded audio of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers requesting violence interrupters at the scene of a double homicide where a crowd was becoming volatile on Saturday. After asking twice, officers were told that dispatch can’t get ahold of the activists.
“We’re not able to get in touch with the violence interrupters, we’re checking but I don’t know if there’s a way to get into contact with them,” a dispatcher was heard saying on the radio.
Alpha News reached out to the City of Minneapolis, asking them to clarify the process by which violence interrupters are dispatched.
“The violence interrupter teams, part of the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach Initiative, are not 911 deployable through dispatch,” spokesman Casper Hill told Alpha News. “Requests for the teams come through the City’s Office of Violence Prevention” he continued.
Hill also added that “request[s] for scene response would have to come from MPD,” but it is unclear how this works in light of last weekend’s stalled deployment.
AUDIO compilation of MPD requesting violence interrupters at 15:54 and then again at 16:19. At the second request, the dispatcher said she couldn’t get in touch with any of them and didn’t know if they even had a way to get in touch.#Fail pic.twitter.com/q55EKj5KK3
— CrimeWatchMpls (@CrimeWatchMpls) May 15, 2022
The bulk of the violence interrupters’ actions, Hill explains, are dictated by crime data. The city receives “regular communication from community groups and businesses asking for interrupters to add areas to their routes to pay attention to areas of concern,” he told Alpha News.
“We do our best to accommodate but ultimately the work routes are dictated by crime data around shootings and the interrupters working knowledge and relationships related to ongoing violence in their geographic area,” Hill concluded.
Earlier this year, the Minneapolis City Council doubled funding for MinneapolUS, the parent program of the violence interrupters. The initiative now has $7.5 million at its disposal. However, not all Minnesotans have the same amount of faith in violence interrupters as the city council.
The Agape Movement is a group that coordinated with Mayor Jacob Frey to help ensure peace as the streets of George Floyd Square were reopened for normal use. Before aiding in reopening the streets, however, an Agape member named Akeem Cubie told reporters last year he will probably kill someone some day, warning that white reporters covering the aftermath of George Floyd’s death aren’t safe because “hurt people hurt people,” per the Minnesota Reformer.
We Push For Peace is a similar group that serves as a pseudo police force that can be hired to replace cops in areas that want less official law enforcement presence. They have been contracted by the city of Minneapolis. While working for Cub Foods last year, one member of the group was recorded savagely beating a homeless man.
Citing controversial events like these, Republicans and pro-transparency progressives alike are calling for more scrutiny to be directed at violence interrupters.