Minneapolis council member behind defund effort blames mayor for crime wave 

Cunningham is one of three council members behind an effort to eliminate the Minneapolis police force as its own department.

Left: Council Member Phillipe Cunningham/City of Minneapolis. Right: Mayor Jacob Frey/City of Minneapolis.

A Minneapolis City Council member said his life was endangered when Mayor Jacob Frey criticized his “public commitment to defunding and abolishing” the police department.

Council Member Phillipe Cunningham has been engaged in a public spat with the mayor over the past several days and blamed him for the shocking uptick in crime across Minnesota’s largest city.

“Last night, 78 shots were fired in one incident in my ward. Within a 20 minute period there were five other incidents of shots fired throughout the ward last night, as well. I was informed by constituents that about two hours ago, an Amazon truck was hit with bullets near Loring School. This is just a few of the incidents that have taken place in the last 24 hours in just Ward 4,” Cunningham said in a Friday email to Frey.

This was followed by a double shooting Saturday that left one injured and one dead, bringing the total number of homicides on the year to 26. One of the shooters was released from jail two weeks ago and has four open cases involving violent crimes, Crime Watch Minneapolis reported.

Cunningham, a vocal critic of the police and an early supporter of the defund movement, now feels alone in his efforts to mitigate gun violence in his community.

“I cannot try to solve this gun violence all by myself. We cannot wait until we have 600 more officers or even just the 200 who have left since last year before something is done. Why are Black lives in north Minneapolis not being prioritized urgently? If this kind of gun violence was happening anywhere in the city, there would be press conferences declaring, ‘Enough is enough,’” Cunningham wrote to Mayor Frey.

The city councilor, who published the email to his Facebook page, said he has “tried to carry this work alone for over three years now,” leaving him “exhausted.”

“Mayor, you are the ultimate authority for public safety in this city. What is your plan to stop this?” Cunningham asked.

Frey quickly shot back in a scathing email, ridiculing the progressive council member for “shallow political maneuvering.” According to the mayor, Cunningham publicized the email immediately after sending it.

“Over the last three years, I’ve been exceedingly disappointed not just with your inconsistency but the complete and utter lack of follow-through on the work at hand,” Frey replied, according to an email obtained by WCCO.

“Your public commitment to defunding and abolishing the police department, your absolute lack of support for adequate police staffing levels (there is a long and clear record here), and your unmitigated inconsistency on this topic have detracted from the essential work at great cost to the city of Minneapolis,” he continued.

Frey took offense at Cunningham’s insinuation that he alone is the “one person working to solve this crisis.”

“If you want law enforcement officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives stationed on the Northside, you know full well that is a request you can make — not just a thing you can complain about on Facebook,” he said.

The row continued Monday as Cunningham accused the mayor of putting his life in danger.

“The mayor’s insistence on lying about me trying to abolish the police is literally putting me in danger. He knows pro-police [people] have sent me death threats, but he’s chosen to continuously push this blatant lie to further his fear narrative to get re-elected. It’s shameful,” Cunningham said on Twitter.

Cunningham is one of three council members behind the “Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment,” which calls for creating a new Department of Public Safety and eliminating the Minneapolis police force as its own department.

He was among a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members who announced their intent to dismantle the police department last June, shortly after the death of George Floyd. They did this while speaking on a stage with the words “Defund Police” displayed front and center.

Council Member Phillipe Cunningham (wearing bright orange) and eight of his colleagues announce their intent to dismantle the police last June. (Tony Webster/Flickr)

He faced criticism in July after it was uncovered that the city spent tens of thousands of dollars on private security for him and two of his colleagues.

Cunningham’s reelection to the council was recently endorsed by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who doubled down on her support for “dismantling” the Minneapolis Police Department earlier this month.