Earlier this year, the Citizens League concluded work with a 48-member Saint Paul Community-First Public Safety Commission to re-envision emergency response in Saint Paul. Named by Mayor Carter, members of the commission represented a wide array of perspectives including community organizations, education, business, law enforcement, faith communities, and cultural and affinity groups.
From this large and very diverse group of commission members, high-level recommendations emerged with extremely strong support, which are detailed in the final report on our website.
Acooa Ellis, who co-chaired the commission, recently authored a piece in the Minnesota Women’s Press, about the process, the challenges, and the recommendations.
“Co-chairing this body of work within the constraints of virtual space and the time allotted was challenging,” said Ms. Ellis. “That said, it is hard to put into words how inspired I was to work alongside so many people — with busy day jobs and competing demands for their time and attention — who rolled up their sleeves to chart a better course for shared experience.”
“And then there is the reality that a perfect community process does not exist,” continues Ms. Ellis. “Community is made up of imperfect people, with their varied lived experiences, motivations, and preconceived notions. Community is made up of people who decide, in all their imperfection, to give themselves toward forming something together. Each perspective was important to the conversation. Critics of the process were invited to stay engaged and offer thoughts, not from the sidelines.”
“I am proud of what the Community-First Public Safety Commission accomplished,” concludes Ms. Ellis. “Together, we moved past talking points rooted in emotion to put forth a set of thoughtful recommendations. The report paints a vision for overall community wellbeing, one that is inclusive of perspectives as diverse as our city.”
The community is already seeing results from this work, reaching beyond the City of Saint Paul to the county level. Recently it was reported in the Star Tribune that 911 operators in Ramsey County “could soon dispatch social and mental health workers, child welfare staff and even nonprofit employees to crisis calls, in one of the most dramatic transformations of the emergency call system since its inception half a century ago.”
This transformation stems directly from the work of the Community-First Public Safety Commission. One of the key recommendations in our report calls for more appropriate responders for each situation who can best assist those in need, and recommends changes at the level of emergency dispatch
Ramsey County had a presence on the Community-First Public Safety Commission as the group learned about 911 response and ultimately submitted recommendations to the City of Saint Paul. Citizens League staff also presented recommendations to the Ramsey County Board in a special session this past summer.
“It is about expanding the tools and partnerships together with our police officers that we need to keep our community safe,” said County Board Chair Toni Carter in the report, who sat on the Community-First commission.
We are proud of the hard work of the Community-First Public Safety Commission and its recommendations that are making an impact on public safety in our community.