Mpl. City Council committee approves appointment of Barret Lane as head of emergency management
A Minneapolis City Council committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the appointment of Barret Lane as the city’s director of emergency management.
Lane was first appointed to the position in 2012. In May, Mayor Jacob Frey appointed him to a four-year term to head the department, which is responsible for coordinating plans, training and city disaster response. The position comes with a salary of $137,000 to $162,000.
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 Minnesota readiness planning and worked to instill a culture of excellence within his team,” Frey said.
Two recent after-action reports found that the city and state’s response to the unrest following the killing of George Floyd could have been better with more planning and communication. Reviews by Maryland-based risk management firm Hillard Heintzecq/ec and Wilder Research found law enforcement officials struggled to communicate and determine who was responsible as looting and burning criminals were spreading through the city. They also found that police made inconsistent decisions about when to use controversial less-lethal munitions, sometimes stoking tensions in already traumatized communities.
The scathing reports forced the two agencies to work in tandem to update and coordinate their emergency plans. Lane coordinated the city of Minneapolis’ response to the after-action review of the unrest, according to city officials.
Councilman Elliott Payne peppered Lane with questions during a public hearing on Wednesday about responsibility for Floyd’s killing, the unrest that followed and the role played by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in responding to these events. No member of the public has registered to speak at the hearing.
“The question I constantly ask myself is: Is the role of the OEM to prepare the plan? [Or] is the role of the OEM to execute on this plan?” asked Payne. “Now would be a good time to at least start this uncomfortable conversation. It was very clear, there was a breakdown of leadership across the city, several actors, several responsibilities.
Lane said city leaders were wrestling with this issue even before the after-action report and many want to know what happened, noting that his department did what it was supposed to do but “we don’t were just not engaged,” he said.
“The police department decided to handle this on their own. And there’s nothing we can do to reverse that decision,” Lane said. “In retrospect, it obviously didn’t work out well.”
To improve public safety coordination in the city in the wake of Floyd’s killing, the mayor has proposed creating an office of community safety in the new government structure approved by voters in November. This office would include 911, fire, police, emergency management, and neighborhood safety (a division that would also include the Office of Violence Prevention now housed in the city’s health department).
Full integration of these and other systems would help resolve the “disconnect between incident command and incident coordination as we saw in 2020,” Lane said.
Council member LaTrisha Vetaw, chair of the council’s public health and safety committee, thanked Lane for agreeing to serve another term during difficult times and for her leadership on the heels of the after-action report.
“It’s a tough time. These are tough conversations,” Vetaw said. “But you’ve stepped up again and you want to do the work to make things better.”
The full city council is expected to take a final vote on Lane’s nomination on June 30.