November 17, 2020

Peter Leggett

Mayor Melvin Carter Announces Community-First Public Safety Commission To Re-Envision Emergency Response In Saint Paul

Commission Of Approximately 40 Members Co-Chaired by Acooa Ellis of Greater Twin Cities United Way and John Marshall of Xcel Energy To Convene For 5 Months In Process Led By The Citizens League

Commission Will Provide Recommendations to the Mayor and City Council In May 2021

SAINT PAUL, MN - Today, Mayor Melvin Carter announced the launch of a Community-First Public Safety Commission to re-envision emergency response in Saint Paul. The Commission will focus on alternative first-response options to priority-4 and priority-5 calls for service, and approaches for ongoing community involvement in the City’s Community-First Public Safety Plan, including considering the creation of a city-staffed office to drive and integrate this work. 

The Commission of approximately 40  members will be co-chaired by Acooa Ellis of Greater Twin Cities United Way and John Marshall of Xcel Energy. The Commission will convene for 5 months in a process led by the Citizens League, and will provide recommendations to the Mayor and City Council in May 2021. 

 “Now more than ever, amid the many crises we face, re-envisioning emergency response is a critical step toward realizing safer outcomes,” said Mayor Melvin Carter. “This Commission will help us expand our Community-First Public Safety Framework, and further chart a path forward for our community.”

“Today, one of the most pressing issues we face is a steady increase in calls for service,” said Police Chief Todd Axtell. “We have an obligation to make sure officers are available when people need them—especially for the most serious crimes. And while we’ve taken steps to address the issue by adjusting deployment, leveraging technology and targeting resources, we should never stop pushing to do more for our city. My hope is that this commission builds on our work and helps us identify even more efficiencies.”

“At this pivotal moment in our city and our nation’s history, we must continue moving a new vision for public safety forward,” said Council President Amy Brendmoen. “This commission will advance this work and bring together many voices to shape how we keep our community safe during these uncertain times.” 

“Community safety beyond policing starts with shifting away from the punitive, costly and reactive status quo of traditional law enforcement and investing deeply in neighborhoods and residents most impacted by historical injustice and police violence,” said Councilmember Mitra Jalali. “As this commission embarks on its work, we need to center those voices in this and every forthcoming process in the work ahead for our city.”


The Community First Public Safety Commission will help shape the City of Saint Paul’s continued work to take a holistic and sustainable approach to building safer outcomes in our neighborhoods. Consisting of approximately 40 members appointed by the Mayor, the Commission will bring together community members with wide ranging experiences to explore how the City can build upon its current strategy. 

Through a process led by the Citizens League, they will examine a wide range of policy ideas for alternative emergency response models. The Commission will be Co-Chaired by Accoa Ellis of Greater Twin Cities United Way and John Marshall of Xcel Energy. Citizens League Executive Director Kate Cimino and Director of Public Policy Amanda Koonjbeharry will serve as project leads. 

“Engaging a broad array of voices in shaping our public policies ensures a well-informed assessment of community challenges and viable solutions—well into the future,” said Acooa Ellis, Senior Vice President of Community Impact for the Greater Twin Cities United Way. “I’m honored to co-chair the Community-First Public Safety Commission and look forward to developing a set of recommendations that optimize City resources in service to all of Saint Paul’s residents.

“Solving the challenges we face today will require cross-sector collaboration, and the development of new models and modes of thinking,” said John Marshall, Director of Community Relations for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota for Xcel Energy. “The Community-First Public Safety Commission will engage in this approach as we further the important conversation around public safety for Saint Paul residents, workers and visitors.”

“For more than 65 years, the Citizens League has engaged Minnesotans to address critical issues in our community, and as we face the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, this work remains a crucial part of advancing the common good,” said Citizens League Executive Director Kate Cimino. “We look forward to supporting the Community-First Public Safety Commission in their efforts to enhance public safety in the City of Saint Paul.”

The Commission will include a broad array of voices and will prioritize engaging members who live and work in Saint Paul with the following structure: 

  • Intergovernmental Partners Up to 2 Members
  • Education  Up to 2 Members
  • Youth Up to 6 Members
  • Business Up to 3 Members
  • Cultural and Other Affinity Groups Up to 7 Members
  • Law Enforcement Up to 6 Members
  • Advocacy Organizations Up to 3 Members
  • Faith Communities Up to 3 Members
  • At Large Members Up to 8 Members

In addition to the Commission members, city department and governmental partners will be invited to participate in the process to provide additional support for this work, including representatives from: 

  • Saint Paul Police Department  
  • Saint Paul Fire Department  
  • Saint Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity  
  • Saint Paul Parks and Recreation  
  • Saint Paul City Attorney’s Office  
  • Saint Paul Libraries  
  • Saint Paul Mayor’s Office
  • Ramsey County Community Corrections  
  • Ramsey County Social Services  
  • Ramsey County Attorney’s Office  
  • Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office  
  • Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center  
  • Second Judicial District of Minnesota 

The full list of Commission Members will be announced later this month. The Commission will convene twice per month starting in December and will establish subcommittees as needed. The Commission will make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council regarding: 

  • Alternative first response options to priority 4 and priority 5 calls for service, and 
  • Approaches for community involvement in informing and evaluating the City’s community first public safety framework and partnerships via an on-going advisory council, including considering the creation of an city-staffed office to drive and integrate this work. 

The project budget is $71,200, paid for through the City’s Innovation Fund. The project will be independent of the City of Saint Paul and the project will follow the Citizens League’s operating guidelines as stated in the organization’s Governing Document. A final report and recommendations from the Commission will be presented to the Mayor and City Council in May 2021. 


Acooa Ellis, Senior Vice President of Community Impact for the Greater Twin Cities United Way directs United Way’s work in grantmaking, coalition engagement, systems change, public policy and the agency’s 211 resource helpline. Acooa previously served as director of social justice advocacy for Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Prior to that role, she managed government relations for the southern region of the country on behalf of Target Corporation. 

John Marshall, Director of Community Relations for Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota for Xcel Energy manages strategic community and local government relationships in MN, ND & SD playing key roles in the areas of operations, emergency response, economic development and social and community investments.  John has 19 years of professional experience including eight years of public service working for the City of Saint Paul and currently serves on several community boards in St. Paul and across the State.


The Citizens League is a member-supported nonpartisan nonprofit organization that champions the role of all Minnesotans to govern for the common good and promote democracy. For more than 65 years, the Citizens League has developed and implemented nonpartisan policies on critical issues facing Minnesota, such as education, governance, taxes, parks, and transportation. The Citizens League is directed by a volunteer board, guided by operating committees, and financially supported by individual members, foundations and businesses. 

Citizens League Executive Director Kate Cimino joined the organization as executive director in September 2020. Most recently, she worked at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs for thirteen years, serving since 2011 as the executive director of the Humphrey Policy Fellows program and assistant director of the school’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance. 

Citizen League Director of Public Policy Amanda Koonjbeharry joined the organization in 2019 and leads all efforts related to developing and advancing policy recommendations with the Citizens League’s members and partners. Amanda previously served in Hennepin County as Director of No Wrong Door, Hennepin County’s anti-sex trafficking initiative and as a Senior Planning Analyst. 


Mayor Carter’s Community-First Public Safety Framework prioritizes investments that are proven to make our most vulnerable children and families more secure in our homes and neighborhoods, and centers around:

  • Improving community connectivity & supports;
  • Designing public spaces for safety; and
  • Enhancing the capacity of public safety systems.

In 2020, the Community-First Public Safety Framework invests more than $1 million in proven, data-driven and evidence-based approaches from around the country and world, and leverages public, private and philanthropic investments to maximize public resources. The framework engages 9 different city departments in a comprehensive public safety strategy, reflects community-driven priorities from over 1,000 Saint Paul residents who’ve participated in Mayor’s Office community engagement events in 2019, and invests directly in community-based resources & capacity to address localized challenges. 


The Saint Paul Police Department uses a classification system for radio calls with five priority designations as follows: 

  • Priority 1 and 2 calls are designated as emergency.
  • Priority 3 calls are designated as urgent.
  • Priority 4 and 5 calls are designated as routine.

General Priority guidelines include these types of calls: 

  • Priority-1
    • Officer down, injured, or needs immediate assistance in a critical situation.
  • Priority-2
    • Any crime in progress.
    • Activity which indicates a crime is about to be committed or has just been committed where suspects are in the area.
    • Any matter which the caller reasonably indicates is of an urgent matter.
    • Intrusion or robbery alarm.
    • Any matter involving serious personal injury or imminent threat of serious injury.
    • Emergency assistance required by the fire department (not DOAs).
    • Physical domestics
  • Priority-3
    • Domestics, neighbor trouble, etc., where no threat of personal safety exists.
    • Suspicious people, vehicles, window peepers, prowlers, trespassers, exposers, etc.
    • Traffic crashes, no personal injury.
    • Assist the fire department with a DOA.
    • Fights, mutual affrays, without weapons.
    • Assist any agency not amounting to priority 1 or priority 2.
    • Report of a citizen holding a suspect not amounting to a priority 1 or 2, does not include shoplifters.
  • Priority-4
    • Offense reports where no suspect is present and no personal threat exists.
    • Assist citizen in non-emergency matter.
    • Shoplifters being held by store security personnel.
    • Drunks, emotionally disturbed persons, disorderly persons, not threatening physical harm.
  • Priority 5
    • Miscellaneous request for service.
    • Barking dogs.
    • Loud party.
    • Loud radios, etc.
    • Parking complaints.

Radio Call Priority designation information is available at  


Last Edited: July 16, 2021