Nekima Levy-Pounds is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas Law School and the founding director of the Community Justice Project, a civil rights legal clinic. She is an expert on issues at the intersection of race, law, criminal justice, public education and public policy. Follow her on Twitter at @nvlevy.

Posts about Society

'No Justice, No Peace' in Ferguson and Across America

Posted by: Nekima Levy-Pounds Updated: November 25, 2014 - 6:03 AM

                                               "They dress the wound of my people
                                                   as though it were not serious.
                                                      ‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
                                        when there is no peace." -Jeremiah 6:14 (NIV)

After learning that the Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of unarmed teen Mike Brown, I felt like running in the streets and screaming at the top of my lungs. I was not surprised by the decision, and yet I longed for an outlet to demonstrate the rage that I felt in that moment, knowing that no black mother's son is safe from a similar fate in America. The problem is deep and it is systemic.

Irrational fear of black men                                                                                                            

Our sons are perpetually typecast into a role that they unwittingly inherited as being evil, scary, large, dangerous, menacing, and "up to no good." This narrative has been used for centuries to justify slavery, untold violence, brutality, castrations, lynchings, beatings, and even death at the hands of those who exercise authority over the lives and livelihoods of African American men. The stereotyping and racial profiling that undergird this diabolical narrative are also used to justify the disproportionate rate of police contacts and incarceration that African American men experience. Indeed, statistics show that upwards of 40 percent of the more than 2.3 million people who are incarcerated are African American men, the majority of whom are poor.

Mass incarceration as a bi-product of injustice

Many of these men are incarcerated for lengthy periods of time for nonviolent drug offenses as a result of the War on Drugs that began in the mid-1980s. The War on Drugs was the precursor to the militarization of our police forces (as we have seen in Ferguson), increased spending on the criminal justice system, and an over-representation of law enforcement in our poorest communities across the country. It has also led to a ballooning of our criminal justice system, with an unprecedented number of men, women, and children experiencing incarceration. Sadly, the damage does not end there, as according to the Children's Defense Fund, an estimated 1 in 3 black boys born in 2001 are at risk of spending some portion of their lives behind bars.

Poor African Americans suffer daily indignities

The only way in which we can reasonably tolerate such injustices is because we have been conditioned to see black men as less than human, just as society did during the cruelness of slavery and the Jim Crow era, and to look the other way in the face of their suffering and oppression. The daily indignities experienced by black men, women, and children are made manifest in areas such as a lack of economic opportunity, high unemployment rates, inadequate access to education, criminalization of black children in the public school system, marginalization of poor blacks into ghettos, disparate health impacts, discrimination through financial systems and lending practices which help to maintain racial segregation, high incarceration rates, and negative media representations of African Americans. 

The suffering that ensues from the denial of our basic human rights occurs under the noses of the average American citizen on a regular basis, and yet those concerns are not brought to the surface until a major incident happens, like the one in Ferguson, which exposes America's racial fault lines. These racial fault lines are like ghosts from the past; always present, always haunting, always reminding us that they exist to wreak havoc on the progress we think we are making. As is our custom, we have learned to bury these racial fault lines as soon as they surface, in the hopes that if we ignore them long enough, they will go away so that we may get back to 'business as usual.' This is folly. Where matters of justice are concerned, there is no place for 'business as usual.'

We're told 'peace', when there is no peace

In the midst of the daily harms and degradations African Americans face, we are told to remain peaceful and tolerant. This is a false sense of peace, used to comfort those who are comfortable. However, we face the fear that at any moment our children could be treated in a manner similar to Mike BrownTamir RiceVonderrit MyersEric Garner, (the list goes on and on) and we know that the law may not protect them or hold their killers accountable. It is in this realization that many have taken to the streets in Ferguson to peacefully protest unjust laws and policies, while some have resorted to rioting (arguably exacerbated by the prosecutor's choice to announce the grand jury's decision late at night). As Dr. King once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” 

We must root out racism

There is no escaping the fact that the majority of our systems and institutions throughout this country, including many of our churches, are built on a foundation of racial inequality and white superiority. Although we were not responsible for creating these systems, we do bear the responsibility for rooting out the racism that is embedded within them, and reconciling ourselves to the truth. Until we are able to engage deeply, painfully, and honestly about the roots of evil and hatred that permeate our institutions, systems, and in many cases our hearts, things will not change; they will only grow worse. Too many of us remain silent because we benefit from the way that things are structured, even though the foundation is like sinking sand.

This begs the question: How many more innocent lives must be sacrificed before we are willing to open our eyes to the truth and make the necessary changes? #blacklivesmatter

Dear White People: Mayor Betsy Hodges is Not in a Gang

Posted by: Nekima Levy-Pounds Updated: November 7, 2014 - 5:28 AM

I wish I could say this headline is a joke, but sadly in the wake of an appalling news story by KSTP 5 last night, it is anything but funny. The news segment, entitled, “Minneapolis Mayor Flashes Gang Sign,” showed a photo of Mayor Hodges and a young black man supposedly throwing up a gang sign. In actuality, she and the young man were just pointing at each other. My eyes could not believe what I was seeing, but not for the reasons one may think. I could not believe that any credible news station in the Twin Cities would produce a segment like the one in question and attempt to pass it off as legitimate news. After the story aired, many in our community took to social media, with the hashtag #pointergate to express their outrage.

Don’t believe the hype

After processing the contents of the story, I thought about the tens of thousands of white Minnesotans who tuned into the news and were served a steady diet of racial stereotypes, innuendoes, and a false narrative about the Mayor and the young African American man standing beside her in the photo. For white Minnesotans who do not personally know any young African American men, it is all too easy to take the media’s word as absolute truth and embrace the negative racial stereotypes that are being perpetuated about the young man in the photo.

I had the privilege of meeting the young man in the photo several months ago at a community meeting. I learned that he has worked hard to reintegrate back into the community by being employed as a canvasser at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) for the past two years. This young man personally knocked on thousands of doors during the election season to help get out the vote and educate community residents about the impacts of felon disenfranchisement in Minnesota.

As a young black man with a criminal history, he has experienced numerous challenges in attempting to successfully reintegrate back into society. Many of those challenges have occurred in his interactions with law enforcement in Minneapolis. He has been handcuffed and detained for things like spitting on the sidewalk and even arrested at a Cub Foods store on the Northside for registering people to vote.  Last weekend, this same young man was part of a larger effort to engage in door knocking with members of NOC, the Mayor, and Chief Harteau. The photo in question was taken briefly during that effort.

A Kafkaesque moment

Rather than celebrating the young man’s involvement in civic engagement, the media decided to replay an age-old narrative of stereotyping a young black man from the inner city and branding him as a gang member. Because of the Mayor’s willingness to reach into the community and build connections, she too, was labeled in a similar manner and accused of having gang affiliations. I posit, another reason the Mayor was targeted in the story is the fact that she has demonstrated courage by speaking publicly about much-needed reforms within the Minneapolis Police Department, including the body-cam pilot project that is being rolled out today. Resistance to change comes in many forms, and sadly this is one of the worst examples of such resistance. The young man in the photo was merely a convenient scapegoat for a larger agenda.

The constant portrayal of young black men as gangsters, thugs, and criminals can be seen nearly every night on the news or in newspapers in Minnesota and around the country. Undoubtedly these negative perceptions contributed to the untimely deaths of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Jordan Davis, and countless other victims. The daily replaying of the narrative of blackness as evil, dangerous, and in the case of Mayor Hodges, contagious, has a cumulative effect on the American psyche and permanently warps our perceptions of the “other.” Indeed, nary can many of us walk past a young African American man without a whole host of racial stereotypes, prejudices, and fears coming to the surface.

Negative perceptions of young black men influence laws and policies

One of the problems with negative perceptions of young black men is the fact that such views do not stay contained within individuals, but tend to influence our laws, policies, and our willingness to tolerate police abuse, harassment, and unjust arrests of this segment of the population. In essence, we become desensitized to the dehumanizing treatment of young black men and such treatment becomes par for the course. We forget to see them as real human beings who deserve to be welcomed into the human family and treated with the same level of dignity we have all come to expect. This should be the case even when someone has a criminal history and is looking to reintegrate back into society after paying his or her dues. (After all, 1 in 26 Minnesotans has a criminal history; and studies show that 95% of all prisoners will return home someday.) We cannot perpetually exclude and demonize people who have made their share of mistakes, just as many of us have made our share of mistakes, yet God’s grace has covered us.

We’ve got to fight the powers that be

As people who pride ourselves on being progressive, we must do a better job of building bridges and tearing down racial and socio-economic barriers. We must challenge narratives that constantly portray people of color as being suspicious, engaged in crime, “or up to no good.” We must hold our media outlets accountable for producing stories that are balanced, fair, accurate, and sensible. We must also be willing to use our voices to advocate on behalf of those who are made to feel as though they are outside the human family. Let us not despair. Instead, let us take action to change things for the better.

Minneapolis Public Schools: Our Children Deserve More than the Status Quo

Posted by: Nekima Levy-Pounds Updated: November 2, 2014 - 12:43 AM

I know that we don't like to talk about it, but race still matters in Minnesota. Arguably, nowhere is that more evident than in the disparate outcomes between black and white students in Minneapolis Public Schools. When I express concerns about the intolerable racial disparities, typically there are four responses: 1) place blame on black parents and children; 2) express disinterest in the problem or remain silent; 3) defend the system at all costs; or 4) agree that there is in fact a crisis that needs to be urgently addressed. Although most folks that I encounter fall into categories 1, 2, and 3, or some hybrid of the above, I tend to gravitate more towards those who are brave enough to admit that serious problems exist and who are willing to lend their voices and social capital to speak publicly about these issues. Typically, these folks are not employed by the district, are not under contract with the district, and have some level of passion for social justice.

Time to challenge the status quo

Indeed, challenging the status quo is not easy, but it is necessary if we stand any chance of addressing the imbalances within the system and changing things for the better. Last month, numerous African American parents, children, and community members showed up at Minneapolis Public Schools headquarters to challenge the District’s inequitable practices as seen on this short video.

When we begin to put our differences aside and critically examine the available data, it becomes apparent that there are structural biases built into the Minneapolis Public School system that tend to reinforce and exacerbate racial disparities. For one, a disproportionate number of Minneapolis Public Schools are racially segregated, with a high concentration of children who receive free and reduced lunch. Within such schools, children are often taught by teachers with less experience and lower levels of educational attainment than their white counterparts at more affluent schools. It is not a stretch to surmise that students in most circumstances benefit from being taught by teachers with more experience and higher credentials. (Recent articles also show that poor students of color are also more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers, further compounding the problems, as shown here and here).

Are schools on the Northside being short-changed?

Assuming that premise holds true, if would not be unusual for a school district to want to assign its most experienced and highly credentialed teachers to the schools with the highest need for support in increasing academic proficiency for students. Yet for some reason, in Minneapolis Public Schools, that is not the case. The schools that seem to have the highest percentages of African American students and the lowest rates of proficiency in reading, math, and science, are provided with less experienced teachers on average than their white counterparts. Case in point, I searched MDE's (Minnesota Department of Education) website and took a look at the section called School Report Card. I looked at two schools that had high rates of African American students and high rates of students who receive free and reduced lunch: Namely, Lucy Laney and Bethune. I then compared a few key statistics from those two schools with Lake Harriet and Barton, two schools with higher percentages of white students and significantly fewer students receiving free and reduced lunch.

Here's what I found: Lucy Laney's student population is 88% black with 98% of students receiving free and reduced lunch. In terms of proficiency rates, only 8.7% of students are proficient in Reading, 12.9% are proficient in Math, and 5.7% are proficient in Science. (Yes, you read those statistics correctly). 35% of the teachers have been teaching for less than three years and 33% have a Master's degree.

Similarly, at Bethune, 85.8% of students are black with 100% of the students receiving free and reduced lunch. 10.5% of students are proficient in Reading; while 17% are proficient in Math; and 4.8% are proficient in Science. (And yes, you read those statistics correctly as well). 31% of teachers have been teaching for less than three years, while 47% have a Master's degree.

By comparison, Lake Harriet Lower Elementary School, a crown jewel of MPS, boasts a population that is 88.5% white and 7.7% free and reduced lunch. 72% of students are proficient in Reading and 80.5% are proficient in Math (Oddly enough, no Science proficiency rates were reported). Interestingly, only 4.2% of teachers have taught for fewer than three years, while a whopping 91.5% of teachers have taught for ten years or more.

Similarly, Barton boasts a population that is comprised of 65.5% white students and 29% of students receive free and reduced lunch. 74.3% of students are proficient in Reading, 66.4% are proficient in Math, and 54% are proficient in Science. 79.7% of teachers have a Master's degree, while 83.5% of teachers have been teaching for more than 10 years and only 5.6% of teachers have been teaching for fewer than three years.

The district has some ‘splainin’ to do

The question must be posed as to why schools with higher percentages of white students and lower percentages of students who receive free and reduced lunch, have significantly higher percentages of teachers who have taught for longer than ten years. Such schools are also more likely to be staffed by teachers holding at least a Master's degree. The question must also be asked and answered regarding how and to what degree having less experienced teachers impacts student proficiency levels and outcomes. As a matter of district policy: Who ensures that human capital is deployed equitably throughout the district to protect against schools with the highest needs being given the least amount of resources? On what bases are such decisions made and how is what is in the best interests of children factored into the equation?

The data show that in truth, the district could be doing better by all children it serves. Given the high social costs of obtaining a subpar education, the district should pay particular attention to the quality of academic instruction that children of color from lower-socio economic backgrounds receive. This is a matter of human dignity, equity, and justice and should be treated as such.

We should refuse to accept the notion that simply because a child hails from a low income family or community, they are forever destined to be at the bottom of society's social ladder.  If we are serious about closing the opportunity gap that exists, we must begin by challenging our own (sometimes biased) assumptions about poor children's capacity to learn, and begin to critically examine and reassess policy decisions, formulas for resource allocations, teacher assignments, harsh disciplinary practices, uneven referrals to special education, vendor contract awards, and school climate and curriculum.

It’s not about good intentions

Let us remember, that accepting the status quo in our school system has nothing to do with good intentions, and everything to do with the history of race relations in this country and in our state, and the residue that still clouds our perceptions of the "other."

An Open Letter to Mayor Betsy Hodges

Posted by: Nekima Levy-Pounds Updated: September 30, 2014 - 5:05 PM

The following letter was sent to Mayor Betsy Hodges on the afternoon of Friday, September 26th and has since been updated to include additional signers.

Dear Mayor Hodges,

We write today to request that your office take seriously the concerns that are being raised by community members throughout Minneapolis and the greater Twin Cities’ Metro area about the abusive police practices of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) that have been occurring for years. As you know, last week nearly two hundred residents of the Twin Cities gathered at Sabathani Community center with an expectation to engage in a “listening session” with Chief Harteau. As you are aware, Chief Harteau withdrew from the event just hours before it was set to begin and made comments to the media that we find to be offensive regarding expectations of physical violence and unruly confrontations that would pose a threat to public safety. These speculations, on the part of the Chief, reinforced stereotypes of the very communities she was purportedly gathering to "listen" to, and who are in fact, the community members most likely to be targeted by police.

The gathering was peaceful and comments from the community served to highlight the depth of the concerns that community members have about their safety on the streets and the ongoing negative interactions between law enforcement and the community. Young people from the community shared stories of arrests for things like spitting on the sidewalk or “walking while black.” The conduct of some members of MPD is unacceptable in a community that prides itself on having strong, progressive values.

Although several requests have been made by multiple community members to have you and Chief Harteau issue a public apology, this has not yet occurred. We find that disheartening. Many of us voted you into office because we felt that you would not continue with “business as usual,” but would work to unify the community and change the status quo. Your silence on the concerns that have been raised and your failure to engage the community on these issues speaks volumes, and will make it difficult to regain public trust.

We remain concerned about the short and long term impacts of failing to address community concerns regarding police/community relations in a timely manner. Following are some actions that you can take as a way to begin to heal the rift between the Chief, your office, and many concerned community members.

●First, we would ask that a public apology be issued by you and/or the Chief for missing the community listening session and her derogatory and alarmist media remarks that perpetuated negative racial stereotypes.

●Second, we would ask that drastic steps be taken to address the culture within MPD that leads to negative police/community relations.

●Third, we would ask for an audit of MPD by a credible, third-party entity to review departmental structure, the effectiveness of internal affairs and the civilian review process, along with departmental policies.

●Fourth, we would request quarterly progress reports to the community on issues such as increasing diversity within MPD, the rates of low-level arrests, the number and types of police misconduct complaints, and the number of police misconduct lawsuits being settled along with dollar amounts.

●Fifth, we would request an opportunity for community input on policies surrounding the use of body cameras by MPD. Although many of us support the use of body cameras, we are well aware of the fact that many jurisdictions that use body cameras continue to face allegations of police misconduct and brutality due to cameras being turned off during optimal times, storage of data, and interpretation of said data.

In essence, we would like to see MPD be transformed into a department that respects the human dignity of all persons and works to foster positive relationships with the community. We believe that public safety is negatively impacted when residents fear the police department or have lost trust due to a lack of accountability. We urge you to demonstrate bold and courageous leadership on these issues and to set the tone for the type of conduct that is expected in the city of Minneapolis. This can only happen after steps are taken to address the concerns that have been repeatedly raised over the last week and an apology has been issued.

Thank you in advance for your consideration. We look forward to a timely response.


Dr. Nancy Heitzeg                  St. Catherine University

Prof. Nekima Levy-Pounds     University of St. Thomas Law School

Dr. Rose Brewer                     University of Minnesota

Scott Gray                              President & CEO, Minneapolis Urban League

Jeffry D. Martin, Esq.      President, St Paul Branch NAACP, First VP, MN/Dakotas Conf., NAACP

Vina Kay                         Interim  Exec. Director./Dir. of Research& Policy, Org. Apprenticeship Project

Nick Muhammad                   Concerned citizen, Community organizer

Rev. Dennis Edwards            Senior Pastor, The Sanctuary Covenant Church, Minneapolis

Dane Smith                            President, Growth & Justice

Toki Wright                            Concerned community member

Jason M. Sole                        Metropolitan State University, School of Law Enforcement & Crim. Justice

Rev. Michael A. Hotz             Associate Pastor of Care and Outreach, The Sanctuary Covenant Church

Rev. Dan Collison                  Senior Pastor, First Covenant Church of Minneapolis

Chris Stewart                         Concerned community member

Dua Saleh                              President, NAACP St. Paul Youth Branch

James Trice                            Founder and CEO of The Public Policy Project

Lissa Jones                             Host, Urban Agenda Public Affairs Show

Elizabeth A. Oppenheimer      Concerned community member

Chaka Mkali                            Director of Organizing and Community Building at Hope Community

Mark Robinson                       Executive Director, E.M.P.O.W.E.R.

Anthony Newby                      Executive Director, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC)

Neely Heubach                      Minneapolis resident and concerned community member

Kenya McKnight                     Minneapolis resident and Business owner

Chris Brooks                           Faculty | Youth & Urban Studies, North Central University

N. Jeanne Burns                    Concerned community member

William C. Jottings                 Concerned community member

Matthew Barthelemy             Concerned community member

Henry Jimenez                      Youth worker, Community organizer

Jamie Utt                                Concerned community member

Charles Samuelson   Executive Director American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN)

Cynthia Assam                       Certified Student Attorney, University of St. Thomas Law School

Ngeri Azuewah                      Certified Student Attorney, University of St. Thomas Law School

Rachel Sebasky                     Certified Student Attorney, University of St. Thomas Law School

Justine Hicks                         Certified Student Attorney, University of St. Thomas Law School

Jacob Ray                              Certified Student Attorney, University of St. Thomas Law School

Muna Hassan                        Certified Student Attorney, University of St. Thomas Law School

Marcus Harcus                      Concerned community member                   

Taylor Shevey                        Concerned community member

Stephen Maitreya Wolfe        Concerned community member

Nathaniel Khaliq                    Concerned community member

Shelley Martin                       Concerned Mpls Resident, Community Organizer

Nelima Sitati Munene            Concerned Community member

Ann Mongoven                      Concerned Community member

Thomas Hooks                      Concerned Community member

Sarah Goodspeed                 Concerned Community member

Tami Schimnoski                   Concerned Community member

Ruby Simmons                      Partake or Flake

Kate Willis                             Concerned Community member

Matthew Berg                       Concerned Community member

Mike Griffin                           Concerned Community member

Kristy Pierce                          Concerned Community member

Vaughn Larry                        Concerned Community member

Donna Evans                         Concerned Community activist/organizer

Rev Meg Riley                       Senior Minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship

La Juana Whitmore  Owner, Black Twin Cities, Member, MN Cultural & Ethnic Comm. Leadership Coun.

Shaun Laden                          Concerned Community Member

Amber Gay                            Concerned Community Member

Dwane Martin                         Concerned Community Member

Peter Thomas,                       Community Artist, Concerned Community Member

Dr. Bryan K. Cole                   Parent, Educator, former Minneapolis Resident

Tim Harlan-Marks                  Concerned Community Member

Karen Monahan                    Community organizer

David Miller                           Concerned Community Member

Cathy Jones                           People of Color Union Member, Concerned community Member

Dave Snyder                          Concerned community member

Anne Winkler-Morey               Community faculty Metro state university

Claire Bergren                       Community Organizer- Harrison Neighborhood Association

Jobi Adams                            Concerned community member and Youth

Rebeka Ndosi                        Concerned community member

Chamise Anderson                Certified Student Attorney, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Melvin Whitfield Carter, Jr.      Concerned community member

Azucena Ortega                     Concerned community member

Eliot Howard                            Concerned community member

Zachariah Y. Oluwa Bankole      JD/MBA student and concerned community member

Anika Ward                             Concerned community member

Roya Damsaz                        Concerned community member

Julie Plaut                              Concerned community member

Amy Van Steenwyk               Co-founder of the Mennonite Worker

 Ann Galloway                       Concerned Citizen

Daniel Dean                          Concerned Community Member

Muneer Karcher-Ramos       Concerned Father

Molly Glasgow                      Northside Community Reinvestment Coalition

Oliver Schminkey                  Concerned citizen

Aaron Rennaker                   Concerned Community Member

Katie Huynh                          Concerned citizen

Ashley Horan         Exec. Director, The Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance

Angel Smith-EL                     Concerned citizen of 4 African American young men

Kyla Sisson                            Concerned community member

Miranda Posthumus              Concerned Community Member

William W Smith IV               Youth Advocate

Bridget Siljander                    Concerned community member

Kate Sattler                            Concerned Community Member

Ann Haines                            Concerned Community Member

Evelyn M. Blum                     Concrned Community Member and Voter

David Boehnke                      Concerned Community Member

Mike Wedl                             Concerned Minneapolis Resident and Community Leader

Lauren Huiting                       Concerned Community Member

David Miller                           Concerned Community Member

Nick Campbell                       North Minneapolis Resident

Stephanie DeFrance             Public School Teacher

Marjaan Sirdar                       Concerned community member

Niko Georgiades                   Youth Worker, Concerned Community Member

Chrissie Mahaffy                   Concerned community Member

Brian Mahaffy                        Concerned community Member

Dick Donovan                        Concerned community Member

Tessa Wetjen                        Concerned community member

Vanessa Messersmith          Concerned community member

Leah C Palmer                      Former MPD employee

Jennifer Lock                         Concerned Community Member

Liane Gale                             Co-Chair, Green Party of Minnesota

Michael kraft                          Concerned community member

Josh Hardy                             Concerned Community Member

Steve Loop                             Concerned Community Member

Danyale Green                       Concerned Community Member/Organizer

Sonia Nunez-Gibbs                 Educator

Tony Nunez                            Concerned community member

Jazmin Danielson                   Community Leader

Avra Anagnostis                      Wake Up 612

Cari Tan Educator                   Concerned Community Member

Mrs. Maryann Robinson          Concerned Child Education Advocate

Brian K. Smith                         Institute on Culture and Policy

Mary Webb-Hampton              Concerned community member, Wake up 612

Stephanie Gasca                     Concerned Community Member

Roya Damsaz                          Concerned community member

Michael W. Jonak                     Attorney and Concerned Citizen

Jon P. Frasz                            TAMN

Roya Damsaz                          Concerned Community Member

Kissy Coakley                          Victims Advocate & Justice 4 All Leader

Dan Kauppi                              Lawyer, Minneapolis resident

Robert Smith III                        Doctoral Student, University of Minnesota

Carrie Anne Johnson               Parent & Life-long South Minneapolis Resident

Amber Jones                            U of M Student, Concerned Community Member

Eric Highers                              Concerned Community Member

Lars Mackenzie                         Graduate Student, University of Minnesota

Maria Laden                             Concerned Community Member

James Christenson                  Concerned Community Member

Vanessa Messersmith              Concerned community member

Joseph Maher                           ONE LOVE 

Mike Griffin                               Concerned Community Member

Christena Cleveland         Ph.D., Associate Professor of Reconciliation Studies, Bethel University

C. John Hildebrand                  Concerned Community Member

Mark Van Steenwyk                 Pastor, the Mennonite Worker

Brita Higgins                             Concerned Community Member

Brandi Olson                             Jordan neighborhood resident and concerned community member

Pamela Y. Cook, Esq        Chaplain Intern, Redeemer Lutheran Church & Redeemer Center for Life

Chelsea Forbrook                       MPS teacher

Holly Slattery                              Concerned Community Member

Alanna Morris-Van Tassel          Concerned Community Member

Steve Clemens                           Minneapolis resident

Charity Kroeker                          Concerned Community Member

Jack O'Leary                              Concerned Community Member

Raymond Calubayan                 Concerned Community Member

Bethany Theobald                     Concerned Community Member

Terry W. Hokenson                    Board Member, Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light

Nancy Nair                                  Concerned Community Member

Russ Barclay                              Concerned Community Member

Jamie Buss                                 Concerned Community Member

Dawn Pivec                                 Concerned Community Member

Lora Pedersen                            Concerned Community member

Corliss Zawistowski                    Concerned Community member

Marcia Foutch                             Concerned Community Member

Linda L Richards                   Brain Injury Specialist in rehab, for persons with traumatic brain injury

Ryan Peterson                           Concerned Community Member

G Zachariah White, PsyD           Licensed Psychologist

Orin Rubin                                  Concerned community member

Matthew Masurka                      Musician, Concerned Community Member

Jennifer Arnold                          Community organizer

Nathan Michielson                     University of Minnesota Student

Morgan Bird                               Concerned Community Member

Peter William Atkins                  Concerned Community Member

Alexis Boxer                              Conservation Organizer, Sierra Club

Nick Espinosa                            Occupy Homes MN, United Neighborhood Alliance

Bobbi Dahlstrom                        Whittier resident

Rike Miggs                                 Concerned Community Member

Cesar Atienzo                            Concerned Community Member

Alexandra Vagac                       Chair of the Board of Directors, MPIRG

Nicholas Cotta                           Student at University of Minnesota

Grayson Carr                             Community member

Dr. Sarah Humpage Liuzzi        Economist, Concerned Community Member

Alyssa Ramsden                       MPIRG Board Director

Aaron Furuseth                         Concerned Community Member

Austin Zyvoloski                         Concerned Community Member

Stacia Martin                             Concerned Community Member

Anton Schieffer                         Concerned Community Member

Emily Lund                                 Concerned community member

Adam Loomis                             Minneapolis resident, artist and activist

Guy Wagner                              Concerned Community Member

Zoe Prinds-Flash                        Photographer, Concerned Community Member

Abbi Dion                                 University of Minnesota Graduate Student and Concerned Citizen

Eden Yosief                                Concerned Community Member

Sam Gould                                  Concerned Community Member

Emerson Gutierrez                       Concerned Community Member

Phill Kelly                                      Interim Executive Director, West Bank Community Coalition

Ryan Johnson                               Concerned Community Member

Nien Liu                                         Concerned Community Member

Josh J. Kaplan                              Concerned Community Member

Greg Neis                                     Concerned Community Member

Will Dockendorf                            Teacher

Mike Hoyt                                       Concerned community member

Ruby Levine                                  Concerned Community Member

Peter Pawlowski                           Concerned Community Member, PACIM Board Member

Noah Shavit-Lonstein                    University of Minnesota Student

Anya Cleaver                                 Concerned Community Member

Louis Mielke                                   Student, University of Minnesota-TC

Pahoua Yang Hoffman                   Concerned Community Member

Margaret Levin                               State Director, Sierra Club North Star Chapter

Matthew Saint-Germain      Student, University of Minnesota and Business Owner, Freedom From

Brian Matthew Hart                         Concerned Community Member

Jonathan K. Davis                            Concerned Community Member

Angie Hanson-Huff                          Concerned Community Member

Adam Levy                                     Concerned community member

Janey Winterbauer                        Musician, citizen of Minneapolis

Patricia Enger                                Actor

Rosalie Pierce                                Concerned community member

Kathy DeKrey                                 Concerned Community Member

Sarah Peters                                  Artist and arts administrator with Northern

Lars Hayne                                     Concerned community member

Robyn Hendrix                                Concerned community member

Dominique B                                    Energy Efficiency

Wil Sampson-Bernstrom                  Concerned Community Member

Ben Severns                                    Community Educator

Juleana Enright                                Writer, Concerned Community Member

Dean Otto                                       Concerned Community Member

Nicholas Clark                                Concerned community member

Lacey Prpic Hedtke                        Artist, concerned community member

Katie Hargrave                               Concerned Community Member

Shanai Matteson                            Collaborative Director, Works Progress Studio

Lara Avery                                       Editor, Revolver

Erik Brandt                                      Professor, Minneapolis College of Art + Design

Mark Borrello                                   Concerned Community Member

Amanda Luker                                   Boneshaker Books

Arwyn Birch                                        Business owner

Randall K. Cohn       Program Supervisor., Avenues for Homeless Youth; Law Student, William Mitchell

Josie Shardlow                                   Concerned Mpls resident

Elisabeth Workman                            Poet, writer

Danielle Thompson                            Concerned Community Member

Lance W Conrad                                Local business owner, music community organizer

Christopher Caesar                           Concerned Community Member

Elizabeth Stewart                               Concerned Community Member

Regan Smith                                       Concerned Community Member

Rachel Bean                                       Concerned Community Member

Donna Buer                                        Concerned Community Member

Bradley Coleman Johnson                 Concerned community member

Kyrra Rankine                                    Concerned Community Member

Katherine Kazama                              Concerned community member

Jonathan Stensland,                           Concerned Neighbor

Cassie Warholm-Wohlenhaus            Librarian, Hennepin County Library-Franklin

Kevin Van Meter                                  PhD Student, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Melissa Hysing                                    Concerned Community Member

Mamie Xiong                                       Concerned community member

Evan S. Giffin                                       Concerned community member

Sharon Goens-Bradley     Healing Justice Program Director, American Friends Service Committee

Christian Erickson                                Minneapolis Resident and Business Owner

Rowena Ng                                          University of Minnesota Graduate Student

Andrew Molle                                       Concerned Community Member

Travis Workman                                    Assistant Professor/University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Ashley Fairbanks                                 Artist/Organizer, Concerned Community Member

Paul Corts                                           Teacher of Color

Danielle Kasprzak                               Concerned Community Member

Colin Kloecker                  Co-Director, Works Progress Studio, Concerned Community Member

Yusuf Ahmad                                        Concerned Community Member

Bryan Pyle                                            Concerned Community Member

Susan Kikuchi                                       Labor organizer

Nancy Helfrich                                      Concerned Community Member

Paul Achmelzer                                     Concerned community member

Jessica Mueller                             Director of Development and Marketing,  Urban Homeworks

David Petersen                                     Owner, David Petersen Gallery

Julie Graves                                          Youth worker

Amy Mingo                                            Concerned Community Member

Peter Simonson                         Executive Sous Chef Peoples Organic, Minneapolis homeowner

Pamela Isham                                       Concerned community member

Kristen Murray                                        Minneapolis resident

Samuel Bjorgum                                    Concerned community member

Taryn Tessneer                                      Concerned Community Member

Marque Jensen                                       Writer, Teacher, and VP of Minne-Mex Construction

Arjun Kataria                                           Graduate Student, Carlson School of Management

Cheryl Wilgren                                         Concerned community member

Jesse Petersen                                        Concerned community member

Melody L Hoffmann                                  Professor, Concerned Community Member

Tom Grant                                                Civilian  

Rachel Young                                          Concerned Community Member

Lori Stee                                                   Concerned Community Member

Paul Henry                                                Concerned community member

Jennifer Barclay                        Mother, Minneapolis resident, Concerned community member

Maura Brown                                         Minneapolis resident

Jenn Schreiter                                        President, the Students' Cooperative

Kirsten R Hayman                                  Resident, Ready for Better

caty royce                                              Deeply Concerned community member

Eric Asboe                                              Concerned Community Member

Karlyn Avery-Derksen         Behavioral Health Nurse Clinician, Concerned Community Member

Dave Jeffries                                         Anti-Racist Action

Victor Martinez                                        New Generation Church

Emerson Beishline                                  Attorney and Concerned Community Member

Francisco Segovia                                 Center Director at Pillsbury-Waite House

Janet Lobberecht                                  Concerned community member

Erik Ostrom                                           Concerned community member

Gabriel Bozian                  Certified Student Attorney, William Mitchell College of Law

Sara Nelson                                           University of Minnesota

Dr. Valentine Cadieux                    University of Minnesota and Concerned Community Member

Jade Lichtsinn                                    LICSW, Resource Chemical and Mental Health

Sarah Valentine                                  Concerned Community Member

Eleanor Stoltz                                        Teacher, Minneapolis Public Schools

Molly Phillips                                         Concerned Community Member

Gudrun Lock                                         Concerned community member

Bruce Braun                                         Concerned Community Member

Brandon Kareef                                   Church Onward, Concerned Community Member

A. Weiers                                            Concerned community member

Mikel Herb                                           Concerned community member

Dr. Kate Derickson                               University of Minnesota

Katrina Ann Haugen                             Concerned Community Member

Stephen Kung                                      President, Urban Oasis LLC

Dylan Bradford-Kesti                        Program Organizer, Land Stewardship Project

Pia Payne Shannon                            Educator

Spencer Cox                                      Concerned Community member

Lalit Batra                                            University of Minnesota

Melinda Kernik                                     Concerned Community Member

Ananya Chatterjea                               University of Minnesota

Paul Schulz                                         Concerned Community Member

The Community is Speaking, but Chief Harteau is Not Listening

Posted by: Nekima Levy-Pounds Updated: September 19, 2014 - 4:25 AM

Last night, I had the privilege of moderating a community listening session focused on the long-standing issue of police accountability in Minneapolis. The listening session was hosted by city council members Alondra Cano, Cam Gordon, and Elizabeth Glidden. While nearly two hundred community members showed up, along with youths from We Win Institute, and panelists, Dr. Rose Brewer, Jennifer Singleton, and Prof. Jason Sole, Minneapolis police chief Harteau was conspicuously absent from the event. Just two hours prior to her expected arrival, Chief Harteau cancelled her participation, citing "public safety' concerns. The chief purportedly received information from a long-standing resident of North Minneapolis that there would be planned disruptions during the event, the threat of physical harm, and agitators. When pressed to name her source, the chief declined to do so, and on the word of an unnamed informant, abruptly withdrew from participation in the event. Also, the chief's referencing of North Minneapolis in her comments, (an area of the city with a large African American population) whether intentional or not, served to reinforce negative racial stereotypes about those who live on the Northside as possibly being "threats" to public safety. Indeed, the comment section under the chief's posting on Facebook shows mostly white commenters calling individuals "thugs" and affirming the chief's decision to withdraw from the event. 

The chief's absence was deeply disappointing

To say the community was disappointed by the chief's decision is a gross understatement. Many were expecting the chief to attend the event in good faith and listen to the concerns of the people regarding issues of police accountability, allegations of police abuse, and the need for stronger police/community relations. At the forum, we heard disturbing accounts of police harassment, racial profiling, unjustified arrests, and targeting of homeless individuals within the community. Folks also expressed frustration about the lack of responsiveness by the chief, the mayor, and other elected officials to the cries for relief from rampant police abuse. 

These concerns are not new to Minneapolis residents, yet the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the murder of an unarmed young black man by police give rise to a new sense of urgency in dealing with the crisis of police misconduct in our own backyard. The chief's failure to show up at the forum and actually hear the voices of the community sends a strong message about the culture of the police department and shows an overall unwillingness to sincerely address the concerns that are being raised. 

Has police abuse become par for the course?

For far too long, we have read account after account and even watched videos  of unarmed African American men being beaten by Minneapolis police officers, with limited to zero accountability for such conduct. There is not one elected official within the city of Minneapolis that can claim ignorance of the pervasive nature of police misconduct in the city. Indeed, the city attorney's office is routinely permitted to settle excessive force cases, while nary anyone bats an eyebrow. It's as though police abuse has been normalized as an ordinary part of our lives in the city, and as long as we can keep cutting checks to pay victims and hide the problems, then everything is okay. Well, it's not okay. This has to stop.

Let's get serious about solutions

In order to shift things in the right direction, there are a few things that need to happen: 1) We need to hold the chief accountable for her withdrawal from the community listening session by demanding a public meeting that includes the mayor and the chief to explain the circumstances surrounding the chief's absence; 2) We need to inquire of the mayor about the scope of her plans to ensure police accountability over and above the implementation of body cameras. Last night's forum demonstrated the breadth and scope of the problems are much deeper than body cameras alone will be able to resolve; 3) We need a comprehensive assessment of the overall effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the Minneapolis criminal justice system that looks at who is being stopped and searched on the streets, the rate of charging of low level, nonviolent offenses such as lurking, disorderly conduct, trespassing, and obstruction of legal process, the annual costs to the city of such low level arrests, and the health-related and economic impacts on individuals and communities when subjected to such punitive treatment. (We do not need another study, but a critical examination of data already available.) The results should cause us to repeal ordinances that contribute to the problems and revamp the system, where needed; 4) We need a coordinated community response that includes capturing negative police encounters on video, making rapid reports of such encounters, challenging unlawful stops, searches, and arrests in court, and showing up at City Hall until we see the changes that are needed; and 5) We need our Caucasian brothers and sisters to stand with us in demanding police accountability. It is not equitable for communities of color to both suffer the effects of police misconduct and then to accept full ownership for addressing problems that we did not create, nor have control over. White people should be just as outraged by police abuse as people of color and resolve to work diligently to address these challenges, as a matter of human dignity.

We are Ferguson

In light of the magnitude of issues we face with policing in Minneapolis, we can't afford to have an absent chief at forums designed to facilitate stronger trust between community and police. There is too much at stake for this to occur. While some express concern about whether Minneapolis will become another Ferguson, I posit that we have already become Ferguson, and have been for a long time. We just don't know it yet.


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