The overhaul is likely to give Mayor Mike Elliott the power to fire the police chief and police officers, one legal expert told The Washington Post.
“At such a tough time, this will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership,” Elliott wrote after the motion passed by a 3-to-2 vote. Elliott, who by law serves on the council, and two other members voted in the affirmative.
An hour later, Elliott announced that Brooklyn Center had fired its city manager, Curt Boganey, and replaced him with the city’s deputy manager, Reggie Edwards.
“I will continue to work my hardest to ensure good leadership at all levels of our city government,” Elliott said in a tweet about the change.
Earlier that day, Elliott and Boganey publicly split over the discipline of the officer involved, who was identified as Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Authorities said Potter accidentally fired her gun at Wright when she meant to use a Taser.
“All employees working for the city of Brooklyn Center are entitled to due process with respect to discipline,” Boganey told reporters. “This employee will receive due process, and that’s really all I can say today.”
Elliott, meanwhile, said the officer should be dismissed.
“Let me be very clear: My position is that we cannot afford to make mistakes that lead to the loss of life of other people in our profession,” he said at a news conference. “So I do fully support releasing the officer of her duties.”
In Brooklyn Center, the city manager — who has administrative power over municipal employees — is hired and fired by the city council. However, Monday’s council meeting was not streamed or broadcast as usual, so the results of the council’s vote on Boganey’s dismissal were not immediately clear.
Elliott, Edwards and city attorney Troy Gilchrist did not respond to requests for comment.
Roughly 30,000 people live in Brooklyn Center, a city just 10 miles north of the courtroom where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for murder in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. In the 24 hours following Wright’s death, pressure on local leaders mounted quickly as residents — still mourning Floyd — grieved anew and demanded change.
Police Chief Tim Gannon played an unedited clip of the fatal encounter for media and community members gathered in the Brooklyn Center City Hall on Monday. One attendee asked, “Why is it that police officers in the United States keep killing young Black men and young Black women at a far, far, far higher rate than they do White people?”
“I don’t have an answer to that question,” replied Gannon, who also said he wanted to hear from the officer before she was disciplined.
Brooklyn Center is what’s known as a charter city, giving it “incredibly broad authority to act,” said David Schultz, a Minnesota legal scholar and expert on state and local law.
Monday’s unusual moves put the city in uncharted territory, he said. “We’re looking at something incredibly unique, what’s going on here.”
The city’s charter — its governing document — includes a provision allowing the council to hand power over the police to the mayor in times of crisis. It reads, “In time of public danger or emergency the Mayor may, with the consent of the Council, take command of the police, maintain order and enforce the law.”
“I think the ordinance’s purpose is to replace the chain of command so that the mayor, rather than the police chief, becomes the [authority] for directing the police department,” Schultz said.
Schultz said that he’s not aware of any state statutes that would prevent the council from delegating this authority and that it appears to be a constitutional provision. This would, he added, allow Elliott to fire police officers, pending any stipulations against such action in the city’s collective-bargaining agreement with the department or in state labor law.
Even then, the mayor could still fire an officer, Schultz said, but the officer may be able to successfully sue and force the city into a settlement payment.
There is also a notable omission in the charter clause, he said: It does not specify the duration of Elliott’s new authority, potentially leaving it “to the discretion of the mayor.”
“We don’t have a black letter or a four-square answer to this one,” Schultz said.