Daunte Wright death: Brooklyn Center proposes unarmed traffic stops in new police reform plan


The Minnesota city of Brooklyn Center is considering a resolution to reform policing nearly a month after the fatal officer-involved shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright that would send unarmed civilians to respond to minor traffic violations and mental health calls.

Mayor Mike Elliott, whose office assumed control over the police force after the firing of City Manager Curt Boganey, presented the resolution to City Council on Saturday that would also create multiple new public safety and crime prevention departments and committees, Fox 9 Minneapolis reported.

“The good news is we have the ability to start creating these changes now, today,” Elliott said at the meeting. “This resolution will transform our system so that police are not the only available response for everything.”

The resolution is named after Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler, a 21-year-old with autism who prosecutors said charged at Brooklyn Center officers with a knife before they fatally shot him. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman ruled last August not to charge the officers involved, KARE reported.

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“I just want to get to work before there’s another killing in our city,” Elliott told a crowd gathered outside City Hall Saturday, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott speaks during a press conference about the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright at the Brooklyn Center police headquarters on April 12, 2021 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott speaks during a press conference about the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright at the Brooklyn Center police headquarters on April 12, 2021 in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The first proposal in the resolution introduced Saturday was to create a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention that would conduct oversight over the city’s fire and police departments. Two unarmed departments would also be created under the resolution: a Traffic Enforcement Division responsible for enforcing “non-moving” traffic violations, and a Community Response Department compromised of trained medical and mental health professionals.

“We want people to be able to call people to get help for their friends and family,” Billie Jean Van Knight with the Racial Justice Network, said at the council meeting Saturday. “We want to be able to drive in peace without being harassed. Please, you can make a difference.”

The resolution was initially scheduled for a vote Saturday, but the vote was pushed back by at least a week after city council members, who were only first presented with the language of the resolution on Friday night, pleaded for more time to discuss its proposals with stakeholders in the community, including the police department and its officers.  

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A former law enforcement official asked to speak at Saturday’s meeting said that he had concerns about sending unarmed civilians to make traffic stops. Thomas Thompson, a former Ohio police officer, recommended the city council talk through that proposal more because traffic stops are among the most dangerous things that police do, the Star Tribune reported.

Jeff Potts, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, also questioned what that model would look like. 

The program for the funeral services of Daunte Wright is held by a mourner at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis, Thursday, April 22, 2021. Wright, 20, was fatally shot by a Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer during a traffic stop. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool)

The program for the funeral services of Daunte Wright is held by a mourner at Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis, Thursday, April 22, 2021. Wright, 20, was fatally shot by a Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer during a traffic stop. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool)

In a letter issued last week, Chuck Valleau, acting president of Local #82, the union representing rank and file officers of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, said union members “are willing to participate in any forum, meeting, or discussion with our community that is permitted by our city administration to help improve our relationships with Brooklyn Center residents.”

Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter during a traffic stop on April 11.

It happened amid escalated tensions in nearby Minneapolis amid the trials for former officer Derek Chauvin, who was later convicted in the murder and manslaughter of George Floyd. Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon released body camera video of the fatal shooting and said at a press conference that it showed Potter, who is White, most likely grabbed her handgun by mistake instead of her Taser.

Both the chief and Potter resigned two days after the shooting. Potter, a 26-year-old veteran of the force, is charged with manslaughter in connection to Wright’s death.

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Materials from her service file released by the City of Brooklyn Center last week includes a chief’s commendation in 2007 for her handling of a “suicidal homicidal suspect” and his 2-year-old daughter.

Other commendations were for Potter recovering a company’s stolen computer in 2008; helping recover a child who was the subject of an Amber Alert in 2006; helping locate and arrest two bail-jumpers from Mississippi in 2006; and tracking down suspects in a home invasion robbery in 1998. The file also includes a handful of reprimands for driving mishaps.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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