After 12 months of working to mend the system of policing in Minneapolis, Cedric Alexander, who stepped into the newly created role of community safety commissioner last year, is formally stepping down in September, the Star Tribune reports. During his tenure, Alexander faced criticism for his online communications with the public and questions about the speed of progress within the newly formed Office of Community Safety, whose job is to craft a holistic public safety model that combines traditional police with unarmed alternatives. "Whoever takes the torch here from me, they're on a firm foundation," Alexander, 68, said hours after formally announcing his retirement Thursday. He pointed to the success of violence-reduction campaigns like Operation Endeavor, a multijurisdictional partnership Minneapolis officials credited with significant reductions in shootings and carjackings over a 90-day span in late 2022 compared to the same period the previous year. However, data show some crimes started declining by August, the month before the city announced the creation of Operation Endeavor, according to an analysis by the Star Tribune, suggesting other factors at play as well.
Alexander was tapped by Mayor Jacob Frey last summer to oversee leaders from five city departments: Police, Fire, Emergency Management, 911, and Neighborhood Safety (formerly known as the Office of Violence Prevention). Alexander, a nationally recognized law enforcement veteran, was praised by supporters as the man the city needed to fulfill its pledge to improve public safety after George Floyd was killed three years ago by police. But some elected officials expressed reservations about his past. Alexander endured a rocky start, sparring in a series of defensive tweets with residents who questioned his tactics, accusing one of "two-faced talking from both sides of your mouth." He formally apologized for his tone the next day and Frey later reprimanded him for violating the city's social media policy. The retirement announcement also comes amid mounting criticism by mental health contractors and council members who work closely with the Office of Community Safety about a lack of communication and progress. In an interview earlier this month, Alexander said he hadn't been given the resources to overhaul public safety but that he understood exactly what kind of new system federal officials want Minneapolis to adopt. "I need people to stop criticizing what we do, and sit down and listen to me," he told the Star Tribune in response to questions about his leadership. On Thursday, he denied that any recent criticism was a factor in his departure. "I don't take personal offense to it," he said.