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WILD and the Westminster TownTalks: The Future of Public Safety for the Twin Cities
Westminster Church
1200 S Marquette Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Thursday, June 22, 2023, 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM CDT
Category: Community Events

WILD and the Westminster TownTalks: The Future of Public Safety for the Twin Cities

New leaders are promising a different vision for public safety in the Twin Cities. Several key posts saw changes in leadership following last year’s election and appointments. Now that they’ve had a chance to settle in, how are these leaders turning those ideas and promises into plans and action? How are they tackling the broad range of issues on Minnesotans’ minds when it comes to public safety, including housing insecurity, addiction, elevated crime and access to resources? Where do they intend to go from here?

Join WILD and the Westminster TownTalks series for a frank discussion with a panel of public safety leaders.  Three leaders from three jurisdictions will discuss these issues and answer your questions. Join us to learn more about their vision for a safer Twin Cities. This event is open to the public, and will be hosted in person and live on Zoom.


Dr. Cedric L. Alexander |City of Minneapolis, Commissioner of Community Safety 

Cedric L. Alexander Psy. D. is a law enforcement expert with over 40 years of experience in public safety, currently serving as Commissioner of Community Safety at the City of Minneapolis. He has appeared on national media networks to provide comment on police-community relations and as a CNN, MSNBC, and Fox law enforcement analyst has written numerous editorials including “What’s the plan now, America?”, “The Chauvin trial is holding a mirror up to America’s insufficient police training”, and “Capitol riot a stunning reminder of America’s policing crisis”.  Dr. Alexander has also served as Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, and as an assistant professor at the University of Rochester Department of Psychiatry. He is a former National President for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).  Dr. Alexander has lectured on police stress and burnout and currently trains on topics of management and leadership, centered around 21st Century Policing. He is the author of The New Guardians: Policing in America's Communities for the 21st Century and In Defense of Public Service: How 22 Million Government Workers Will Save Our Republic

Pamela Barragan | St. Paul Police Department, Deputy Chief of Community Engagement

Pamela Barragan was born in Ecuador, a South American country the size of Colorado and having a diverse population, geography and economy.  After her primary school, she attended university in Ecuador where she earned a four-year degree in Social Communication.  She moved to Minnesota over thirty years ago on a journey to find herself and new opportunities, leaving the family, friends, career and culture, everything she had grown up knowing and loving.

Pamela lived with an uncle and aunt who were attending the University of Minnesota, studying to become doctors.  Her first jobs were cleaning a bar on weekends and working a fruit and yogurt stand in the skyways of Saint Paul.  Her communications degree benefited her, and she quickly became a supervisor.  A frequent customer offered her a position at the Department of Labor and Industry, where she worked for four years, achieving the position of Account Clerk II.  Pamela was deeply involved in the community and found a job posting with the Saint Paul Police Department as a Community Liaison Officer (CLO), opening a new career for Pamela.

She returned to college and completed a degree in law enforcement, a requirement for all police officers in Minnesota.  She entered the police academy in 1999, and worked multiple assignments including Patrol, Family Violence, and Liaison to Latino businesses.  In 2005, she was promoted to sergeant, becoming the first Latina police sergeant in Saint Paul history.  Among her many assignments were Downtown Beat Patrol supervisor, Family and Sexual Violence investigator, Juvenile Unit, Gun and Gang investigator, Training Unit as supervisor of the Background and Recruitment divisions, and finally the Community Engagement Unit where she oversaw a new initiative for non-traditional candidates interested in law enforcement.  In 2017, Pamela was promoted to commander, working in Citywide Services, and later assigned to the Community Partnerships Unit. 

In February 2023, Pamela was appointed as the new deputy chief of the community engagement division; becoming the first Latina in the St Paul Police Department’s history to obtain this rank. 

Dawanna S. Witt | Hennepin County Sheriff

Dawanna S. Witt was elected as the Hennepin County Sheriff on November 8, 2022. She was sworn in and took office on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. She is the first woman and person of color to hold the office.
Born in Chicago and raised in Minneapolis, Sheriff Witt became a mother at 15 but nevertheless excelled at school. She earned several scholarships to college, including the Justice Alan Page Scholarship. As a condition of that scholarship, she volunteered in several community organizations in various roles and saw firsthand how her actions could make a positive difference in the lives of young people. Her passion for working with kids remains to this day.
In college, Sheriff Witt studied chemical dependency and family therapy and her first jobs were in the nonprofit field. When she heard that the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office was looking for female detention deputies, specifically women of color, she decided to apply, and was hired in 1999. Working as a detention deputy opened her eyes to the people and possibilities in law enforcement.
In 2004, after returning to school to become a licensed peace officer, Sheriff Witt was hired by the Dakota County Sheriff's Office. During her career at Dakota County, she worked in a variety of roles, including bailiff, transport, school resource officer, detective, crisis negotiator, recruitment coordinator, diversity and inclusion coordinator, and more. Ultimately, she became the first woman in the agency’s history to reach the rank of captain. Through it all, she focused on reaching out to young people and communities that have historically had poor relationships with the police. During her time as a school resource officer, working with children with mental health and behavioral difficulties, the school experienced a noticeable drop in kids entering the juvenile justice system.

While working at Dakota County, Sheriff Witt earned a police science degree, and followed that up with dual master's degrees in public safety administration and management, which included an internship with the Northamptonshire Police in the UK.
Sheriff Witt returned to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in September 2019 to take charge of the agency’s largest bureau, Adult Detention and Court Services. In her role as a major, she oversaw court security for two of the most high-profile trials in modern history. She also dealt successfully with the pandemic in Minnesota’s largest jail, leading the development of new protocols to help limit institutional and community spread of COVID-19.
In 2022, Hennepin County voters overwhelming selected her to be the next Hennepin County Sheriff. She campaigned on her years of experience and a platform of safer communities, improved law enforcement recruitment and retention, reform, collaboration, and transparency.
Sheriff Witt is married with two adult daughters and two grandchildren. She also works as an adjunct professor at Inver Hills Community College, teaching Juvenile Justice and American Corrections. She serves seasonally as a Minnesota State Fair Police Officer and has served on advisory panels including the State of Minnesota Legislative Task Force on Child Protection and the State of Minnesota Task Force on Law Enforcement Education Reform.

Tane Danger | Director, Westminster Town Hall Forum

Tane Danger is the director of the Westminster Town Hall Forum. The Forum's mission is to lift up voices of consciousness to address the issues of the day from an ethical perspective. 

Tane is the rare mix of a professional improv comedy performer with a Master's in Public Policy. He believes in making big important conversations fun and accessible to diverse audiences. He is a regular event host, forum moderator, facilitator and public speaker. 

For more than a decade, Tane hosted the nationally renowned civics-inspired improv comedy show, The Theater of Public Policy. At each show, he interviews newsmakers, policy-wonks, and big thinkers on issues ranging from race in education to the farm bill. Then the show’s cast of improvisers takes everything that’s been said and turns it into entirely unscripted improv comedy theater. The result is what the Star Tribune described as “C-SPAN invaded by the cast of SNL.”

In addition to his work with the Forum and as an event and conversation host, he regularly teaches and does workshops on better dialogue and collaboration through improv. He's served as adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota School of Design as well as a very large hospital system that's extremely protective of its brand, but is based in southern Minnesota and shares its name with a condiment. 

He is a regular contributor to the Twin Cities Public Affairs Program Almanac. He serves as a trustee for his undergraduate alma mater, Gustavus Adolphus College.