Office of Violence Prevention Director Sasha Cotton recruited for leadership role at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

June 3, 2022

Sasha Cotton, Director of the Office of Violence Prevention, was recently tapped to take on a new role at an internationally recognized leader in violence prevention work and action research center. Effective July 15, Cotton will become the Deputy Director for the National Network for Safe Communities (NNSC) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. 

The NNSC provides proven, evidence-based, life-saving violence reduction strategies to dozens of communities across America and beyond. Their work focuses on the safety of the most vulnerable communities in the United States, Sweden, Mexico, and Brazil. Cotton has long partnered with NNSC on Minneapolis Group Violence Intervention (GVI) work, including being one of six pilot sites for the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice in 2017.

“While we are sad to lose Sasha’s vision and leadership at the City of Minneapolis, I am so proud of her,” said Frey. “Sasha has truly made a difference in the lives of the people of Minneapolis and has built something special during her time leading OVP. Over the course of nearly a decade, she has transformed OVP and prioritized a public health-based approach to community safety. From the GVI initiative to the MinneapolUS interrupter teams, her foundational work will continue for years to come. Now we get to see her flourish with the nation’s foremost violence prevention leader and continue advancing safety beyond policing. Our city is fortunate to have had a leader with so much empathy, tenacity, and integrity at the helm of this work.” 

“As I reflect on the past 8 years, I am so proud of the evolution of violence prevention work in Minneapolis and how we have partnered with community throughout the process,” said Cotton. “My career has been devoted to the belief that violence is not an inevitable outcome but something we all have a role in preventing. Through the OVP programming we are educating and empowering communities across Minneapolis to do just that. From the early days working on the Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence to seeing the Office of Violence Prevention come to fruition and now have a full staff, it has been an honor to work alongside my colleagues and strive to make lasting change for Minneapolis residents, especially our youth. I know I leave OVP in the hands of amazing leaders like Josh Peterson and Jen White who will continue to champion the work. I’m excited to watch the violence prevention programming continue to grow, adapt, and serve the residents of Minneapolis – and I’m excited to see how I can continue to partner with and support Minneapolis through my work at NNSC.”

Cotton has been a champion for public safety and violence prevention work throughout her entire career. For the past 8 years, Cotton has dedicated her time to strategically growing the City of Minneapolis’ violence prevention and safety beyond policing initiatives. Starting as the Youth Violence Prevention Coordinator and later leading the entire Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) as its first Director, Cotton has successfully fostered and expanded violence prevention programming in the city from design and development through evaluation and tangible outcomes, impacting countless lives across Minneapolis.

Under Cotton’s leadership, the MinneapolUS Strategic Outreach program has continued to reach more and more city residents through the Violence Interrupters who help to reduce community violence by stopping its spread and addressing root causes. Recognizing the success of this program, the White House Community Violence Intervention Collaborative (CVIC) has partnered with the City, OVP, and its community partners to enhance the interrupter programming. This has been especially impactful for our youth community – and  Cotton’s vision and dedication is the reason why.

Cotton’s last day with the City will be July 15. The two current OVP managers will continue to lead the work during the transition. Josh Peterson will assume the position of Interim Director and Jennifer White will remain the Community and Interagency Engagement Manager.

Peterson has been working alongside and collaboratively with Cotton for the past 8 years, first as the Youth Intervention Coordinator and most recently as the Manager of Operations and Programs for OVP. White has worked for the City for over 15 years in City Council offices, the Mayor’s office, and now as the Community and Interagency Engagement Manager for OVP. They will continue to lead OVP team efforts through their two managerial roles to help prevent and reduce the impact of violence through community-focused, public health approaches.

“Sasha has made such an important impact on violence prevention in her time working for the City,” said Peterson. “It has been so exciting to see people at the national level take notice of the things we’ve seen from her here in Minneapolis—her vision for balancing evidence and innovation, her credibility, and above all else her tireless passion for making communities safer for everyone. With the community violence intervention movement taking hold more and more across the country, this is the perfect time for her to use her skills to shape the work at a national level in this much-deserved leadership role with NNSC. We’re so proud of what she has accomplished as a leader, and we will continue to cheer her on as we stay allies in violence prevention. There’s no doubt she’s leaving behind big shoes to fill. But, I know that the heart and soul of this work—our team of talented and dedicated staff in OVP and our many committed community partners—will continue to champion the meaningful violence prevention work we’ve built.” 

The City will facilitate a competitive, national search process to secure the next Director. Under Mayor Frey’s proposed government structure, the Director would lead the new Neighborhood Safety department under the unified Office of Community Safety.