Messages from the Council Chair

Metropolitan Council planning review of Metro Transit Police Department

June 2020

Charlie ZelleAs the Metropolitan Council chair, I speak for our Council Members, Metro Transit, and the other divisions of the Council in saying that we are heartbroken at the horrific and senseless killing of George Floyd, during an encounter with now former Minneapolis Police Department officers. As I’ve written before, we need bold action on racial equity that recognizes systemic racism, in a region with some of the starkest racial disparities in the United States.

Given the Met Council’s role in overseeing the Metro Transit Police Department, we welcome the opportunity to participate in this community conversation about policing.

The Metro Transit Police Department has more than 140 sworn officers. The department is responsible for the safety of our riders and operators, and the security of the transit system, which spans 8 counties, about 90 cities, and 125 transit routes. This means our responsibility overlaps with many other police jurisdictions and requires collaboration.

In fulfilling our oversight role, we will be conducting a comprehensive review of the Metro Transit department’s policing policies, practices, and relationships. Chief Eddie Frizell, who has led the Metro Transit Police Department since August 2019 and has championed the philosophy of 21st century community policing within the department, welcomes this review. For years, the department has followed the principles of community policing and has actively worked to make sure the officers who represent the department are reflective of the communities we serve. That diversity has helped us connect better with our communities; a review of this kind is a logical step to ensure we’re meeting expectations and to learn where we might improve.

This review will require robust and authentic public engagement. We will rely on people across our region to ensure the review is informed, comprehensive, and substantive. We all look forward to hearing from community members, policymakers, and staff who regularly interact with and depend on transit police.

This review will inform our ongoing efforts to improve transit security and customer experiences on our region’s transit system. This includes our continued pursuit of alternatives to policing, such as administrative citations for fare evasion, which would allow us to have non-police transit personnel inspect fares and provide a more prominent non-police presence on our system.

Again, it is important to me as the chair of the Metropolitan Council that this review is thoughtful and substantive, and not reactionary or merely symbolic. Specific plans are now being formulated to support this review, and we’ll communicate progress and ways the community can be involved in the coming weeks.