June 2-PAC – Safety and Planning in our Parks

The meeting was called to order at 6:08 PM by Peter Radford.  20 people in attendance.

The June meting focused on our award-winning Parks:  Safety and programming keep MPRB winning awards!   Our speakers were MPRB Police Chief Jason Ohotto and the acting Eastside program director  Paul Jaeger.

SAFETY:  Chief Jason Ohotto began by reminding us that the Minneapolis Parks Police  are colleagues with the Minneapolis Police Dept. but are independent of  the MPD.  MPRB Police reports to the Parks Board of Commissioners.

The MPRB Officers are full time, fully trained police officers, who attend the same training at the Police Academy as officers in the MPD and who are sworn in by the city.  MPRB Officers wear the same uniform as the MPD officers. Common training and certification means that MPRB officers, like MPD and UMPD officers respond to emergency calls on the basis of “nearest officer responds”.   MPRB Police Dept. also includes Police Agents, who are fully trained but not sworn in.  They work full time during the summer but part time the rest of the year.  Park Agents  support and supplement officers’ services.  Right now there are 35 sworn officers and just over 20 agents.

The Parks Police work two shifts, 7AM to 4, and 4 to 1AM.  The parks are officially closed from midnight to 6AM.  From 1-7AM, MPD takes any calls for service  in the parks.

The MPRB is responsible for some 200 properties with 50 recreation centers.  The police unit makes sure that all park workers are trained observers, people who have been taught to notice, assess, and report when something “doesn’t seem right.”  Park Police want to develop a relationship with all park staff for mutual support and to ensure the safety of the people who come to the park.  Additionally, while all field staff receives general safety training, recreation program staff has significantly more training.

Chief Ohotto sometimes is asked if his Department is not a duplication of service.  The answer is absolutely not.  The two forces are entwined at many points: In addition to training together at the Academy for the same certification, the departments share needed services for better efficiency and to avoid duplication including 911 dispatch, crime lab services, information sharing necessary for efficient policing.  Additionally, with 200 unique properties to patrol, it’s MPRB officers’ business to know those properties very well.  Unlike well-lit straight, broad streets in most of the city,  MPRB properties are unique.  Having a smaller team learn the terrain well is efficient policing.  Finally, many of the service needs for people who use the parks are quite different from the needs MPD officers find on the street.  It’s better to have a smaller but tightly focused team working the parks.

Question: What are the main issues they face in the parks.  Chief Ohotto pointed  that the “main issue” depends on what park you are looking at.  In some parks you’ll find gang recruitment, illegal business and violence.  In most parks, that is rare.  Some parks, like Loring, Nicollet and Boom Islands, Father Hennepin, are event magnets; other parks draw neighborhood families.  The MPRB  polices 300 to 400 special events each year.  If a scheduled event includes alcohol, MPRB officers must be on hand.    People who are homeless see the parks as safer places to sleep or just pass the time–about 100 people sleep outside in the winter but more in the summer.  They often seek remote sites in the parks.

Question:  Crisis Intervention Training is the newest initiative MPD training.  IS MPRB doing this also?  Answer:  the every MPRB officer will be fully trained by this fall and some have completed training.

Question: Parking meters–what’s the deal?  Answer:  the regional parks have parking meters because many users come from outside our city and do not support regional parks with their tax money.  The neighborhood parks do not have meters, because they are most used by people who live nearby, people  who do pay taxes to support the parks.

PROGRAMMING IN MPRB:  Our Eastside Program director, Paul Jaeger reminded us that program signups commence about 2 months ahead of the programs.  He handed out info sheets for just  two NE parks, which advertised Sanneh Camps offering more than 70 summer camps throughout the metro area, free lunch and dinner programs for people  through age 18,  movies in the park, art camp, science camps, naturalist camps and more, all high quality and all free.  Register at www.minneapolisparks.org  The pools are now open, too [including the totally rebuilt wading pool at Van Cleve.  This is its very first year.]

Program staff are very aware of security and safety for the families who use the parks.  It is staff responsibility to care for the kids who sign up but they are also aware of the kids who just show up.  Some kids are come to the park without signup and with no parental guidance.  For safety reasons, MPRB has no drop-in programs.  Staff will watch for the unsupervised kids, but if something seems wrong, they’ll act on it, perhaps by conversing with the parents, or by going further.  Staff security rules indicate that no staff leaves until all the youth and children have left the park.

Finally, Mr. Jaeger was pleased to announce that MPRB is up to speed on pickleball.  He then found he had to explain to us that pickleball is a mashup of tennis, badminton and ping-pong and is really getting popular.  [EQ: I found an online explanation at  http://www.usapa.org/what-is-pickleball/   Now you know too!]

SECOND PRECINCT REPORTS:  Sgt Mota, State of the Precinct:  While robberies and other crime are down in the Second Precinct, the same problems persist: namely theft from motor vehicle and  robberies in the NE part of the precinct.

Sgt. Mota was very happy to report that the May Open House went very smoothly.  This year we had three dogs including one UMPD dog attending.  Sgt Mota also reported that we’re the only Precinct that has free popcorn, thanks to the wonderful lady from P & P Popcorn, who comes with her popcorn stand in her trailer every year.  131 kids entered the 6 bike giveaways.  As always, our local merchants supported the event very generously.   Planning went better, also: 720 pieces of meat were ordered and there were only 20 hamburgers left over, and almost all the 500 ears of corn were gone. Attendance approached 600 People.

CPS Susan Webb reminded people that the NE Parade is on the 21st [too late], National Night Out is the First Tuesday of August with free registration through July 15 — register your event and you’ll get MOA ride passes and more good things to hand out, and your event will get stops  by your local officers.  Central Avenue Open Street is August 7.

COURTWATCH: Sarah Becker announced that some low level offenders will no longer have supervised probation;  fewer offenders will have access to treatment programs for chemical dependency or anger management.  These programs are funded at the county level.

Osman Amin has chemical dependency issues and may qualify for supervised probation (he is a new add from April).
Anthony Bilges remains in jail waiting for his evaluation.  Jerome Darkow and Jarid Jovanovich are in custody in Anoka County. Curtis Laroque didn’t show up for his jury trial.  Albert Moen was convicted in May, 90 days/80 stayed, 1 year probation. Ryan Pilarski has a new warrant but is not in custody.  Michael Weston-Rose  has a bench warrant.
No updates on Johnny Hall, Bryan Holmes, Jesse Houge, James Jemison, Jordan Sullivan, Jason Tucker, James Zaccrdi.  Daniel Heacock, no updates until August.

Michael Zaccardi and Raymond McParland were removed from the watch list

Two people were added to the list:  Dae Misel randomly assaulted someone in Audubon Park.  He has 11 citywide arrests since 2011 including 4 in the Second Precinct (shoplifting, assault, restraining order violations)
Cody Corbin was arrested for felony possession of meth and damage to property at 1619  Lincoln St. NE.  He has 6 citywide arrests since 2010, including 5 in the Second Precinct since 2015

No old business

New Business: Graffiti-like stickers are appearing around Broadway and Central.  Call 311 and request removal.  You can also use e-mail http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/311/online/index.htm.

What is a Citizen’s Arrest:  When an officer has not witnessed an event, he may request a citizen to fill out a witness form requesting arrest so the officer can take the person into custody.

Adjourn: 7:33PM

Future PAC programs  –  Traffic woes (tickets, complaints, and what to do about all that).  311: how does that work?  New issues in Regulatory Services.  Fire safety.   Medical emergencies: what to do before the EMTs get there.

Do you have a question about safety services in Minneapolis? let us know and we’ll find someone to talk to us about your concerns

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