Hennepin County Chief Justice Toddrick Barnette was sworn in as the new commissioner of the Office of Community Safety Monday morning.
Barnette was confirmed in the role last week, with a 12-1 vote in the city council. He will be the city’s second OCS commissioner after his predecessor, Cedric Alexander, retired after just over a year on the job.
Barnette said he will prioritize fixing the staffing shortages in Fire, Police, and 911 departments. He also said he wants to focus on creating meaningful relationships with those departments and the community, and to repair the rifts that exist.
“What I think I bring is a real desire to collaborate and to have partnerships and because that's important to get work done, and to get input,” Barnette said in a press conference after he was confirmed.
As the commissioner, Barnette will be in charge of the OCS five branches: 911, Fire, Emergency Management, Neighborhood Safety, and Police. His tenure is set to begin as Minneapolis is undergoing significant changes to policing after both the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the Federal Justice Department found that the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in years of discrimination and unlawful policing.
Barnette said he will work to make information regarding the OCS easier to find, saying that as a person on the outside, he himself had trouble finding information. He said the segmented methods the office has undermined the work it is doing.
“There will be transparency, there’s no way that we can't have it, as a basic principle we will have transparency and if there are moments in which for legal reasons I can’t tell people what's going on I'll say I can't tell you,” Barnette said.
Since the OCS was founded in 2021, it has been marred by controversial hires. Alexander retired from the position without putting forward a single proposal, and drew ire from community members and activists for mostly hiring people for public relations roles. Upon retiring he stated “he did not have the staff to transform public safety.”
Barnette has served as the chief judge of Hennepin County since 2020; he is the first person of color to hold the position. He has 30 years of experience in Minnesota courts, and has served as a judge for the past 17 years.