University of Minnesota: University of Minnesota advances conversations and commitments to safety, on and off Twin Cities campus

As a follow up to extended conversation at its public meeting in June, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents publicly discussed on Wednesday the latest actions and investments to enhance public safety on the Twin Cities campus—as well as future plans to address concerns and systemwide strategic goals.

University President Joan Gabel and Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Myron Frans—who oversees Department of Public Safety functions—outlined existing initiatives and plans to address public safety challenges, primarily in neighborhoods near campus. They also provided an update on how the University has and will continue to implement dozens of recommendations from Dr. Cedric Alexander’s January 2021 public safety review and more than 1,300 hours of subsequent work by the M Safe Implementation Committee.

Discussing crime prevention and response, Frans acknowledged the complexity of overcoming public safety challenges facing communities nationwide, and noted the University has many resources and strategies in place that keep on-campus crime well below averages across Minneapolis.

Many U of M Twin Cities students, faculty and staff live off campus in neighborhoods near the University. Frans reiterated that the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) have jurisdiction over these neighborhoods. He emphasized that the University is taking a comprehensive and layered approach to safety but close partnership continues to be needed from the City, other local agencies, landlords, local businesses, students and parents. He also reinforced how the University and the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) partner—daily and often—with the MPD to serve the campus community beyond official campus boundaries and that the University continues to actively seek partnership opportunities to enhance public safety.

New and ongoing commitments in these off-campus areas include:

A newly announced Strategic Safety Advisory Committee involving students, parents, faculty, staff, the City of Minneapolis, MPD, UMPD and others to bring new solutions, diverse perspectives and creative thinking to public safety challenges facing our community, particularly in off-campus neighborhoods
Growing partnerships between the University and local businesses to support proactive public safety work
Discussions about pedestrian and vehicle safety infrastructure, including safe public gathering spaces
Dinkytown Safety Guides programs
Requesting improved neighborhood lighting from the City of Minneapolis while encouraging area businesses and landlords to follow the University’s investment in more cameras and lighting on property they control
Gabel highlighted that, with the Board’s approval, UMPD’s annual budget request was funded in full, which included increasing its authorized officer pool to 66 officers. However, due to challenges of hiring and retaining qualified officers the department is not yet fully staffed. To address this challenge, UMPD added incentives for new hires and retention bonuses for existing officers in the past year, with plans for committing more resources in the year ahead.

The Board’s discussion also reflected a comprehensive view of safety. Alexander’s January 2021 report and the work of the M Safe Implementation Committee has brought into focus the campus community’s diverse values, experiences and expectations involving safety, not only on the Twin Cities campus but systemwide. Work on this group’s recommendations continues, Gabel said, in concert with students, faculty and staff, informally and through the University’s shared governance structure, which includes the University Senate’s Campus Safety Committee. Dozens of recommendations have been implemented already, including those regarding information and communication, how officers are hired and trained, what weapons and equipment law enforcement utilizes, additional accountability measures, and review of policies.