A Minneapolis council committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to approve the nomination of Barret Lane as the city’s emergency management director.
Lane was first nominated to serve in that role in 2012. In May, Mayor Jacob Frey appointed him to serve a four-year term at the helm of the department, which is tasked with coordinating the city’s disaster plans, training and response. The position comes with a $137,000 to $162,000 salary.
In the nomination letter, Frey described Lane as a proactive leader dedicated to the safety of the city of Minneapolis. Lane “has been at the forefront of preparedness planning in Minnesota and has worked to instill a culture of excellence within his team,” Frey said.
Two recent after-action reports found that the city and the state’s response to the unrest that followed George Floyd’s murder could have been better with more planning and communication. The reviews conducted by Maryland-based risk management firm Hillard Heintzerev and Wilder Research revealed that law enforcement officials struggled to communicate and determine who was in charge as looting and arson spread across the city. And that police made inconsistent decisions about when to use controversial less-lethal munitions, sometimes inflaming tensions in already traumatized communities.
The scathing reports forced both agencies to work in tandem to update and coordinate their emergency plans. Lane has been coordinating the city of Minneapolis’ response to the after-action review of the unrest, according to city officials.
Council Member Elliott Payne peppered Lane with questions during a public hearing Wednesday about accountability for Floyd’s murder, the unrest that followed and the role the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) played in responding to those events. No members of the public signed to speak at the hearing.
“The question that I am constantly sitting with is, is the role of OEM to have the plan ready? [or] Is the role of OEM to execute that plan?” Payne asked. “This would be a good time to at least start that uncomfortable conversation. It was very clear, there was a leadership breakdown across the city, multiple players, multiple responsibilities.”
Lane said city leadership has been wrestling with that question even before the after-action report and that many want to know what happened, noting that his department did what they were supposed to do but “we simply were not engaged,” he said.
“The police department decided to simply run this on their own. And there’s nothing that we can do to override that decision,” Lane said. “In retrospect, that obviously didn’t work well.”
To improve public safety coordination in the city in the wake of Floyd’s murder, the mayor has proposed to create an Office of Community Safety in the new government structure voters approved in November. That office would include 911, fire, police, emergency management and neighborhood safety (a division that also would include the Office of Violence Prevention now housed in the city’s health department).
Fully integrating those systems, among other things, would help resolve the “disconnect between incident command and incident coordination as we saw during 2020,” Lane said.
Council member LaTrisha Vetaw, chair of the council’s Public Health & Safety Committee thanked Lane for stepping up to serve another term amid challenging times and for his leadership on the heels of the after-action report.
“It is a hard time. It’s hard conversations,” Vetaw said. “But you’ve once again stepped up and want to do the work to make things better.
The full city council is slated to take a final vote on Lane’s appointment next Thursday.