We in Minneapolis are at a moment of intense disruption of racial business as usual, especially regarding policing. In the 2013 elections, particularly in the race for mayor, we in Minneapolis clearly sent the message that it is long past time to end our enduring racial inequities in education, employment, housing, wealth, and health — and policing. Changing how we do business is not enough; I am using the tools I have to create the real transformation we need.
Chief Janeé Harteau and I have been partnering on this work since I began my term as mayor. Minneapolis is a leader in this work nationwide. We are doing things few other cities have done.
• Just last week, Minneapolis police officers began training in procedural justice to improve the quality of interactions between officers and residents. Every officer at every rank will undergo this training. Few, if any, departments across the country have done this kind of training — and the chief and I sought it out. I, along with Council Member Blong Yang, successfully proposed funding it fully for 2016 during last year’s budget deliberations.
• Well over a year ago, the chief and I successfully sought to have Minneapolis included as one of only six cities in the Department of Justice’s groundbreaking National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. The Initiative is designed to increase trust and transform relationships between communities of color and police. The Initiative has been on the ground in Minneapolis with both the community and the department setting the foundation for the work of its three pillars: procedural justice, racial reconciliation, and implicit bias.
• Chief Harteau brought in the federal Office of Justice Programs to assess MPD’s police accountability measures, and in response to that assessment the department is developing a new early intervention system. This will allow MPD to identify officers who are having issues before those issues become problems or potentially misconduct. I applaud Chief Harteau for taking this rare step and for her work to ensure the community is helping shape the system.
• I remain firmly committed to making sure our officers reflect the communities they serve. Our most recent class of community service officers is 61 percent people of color.
• I, along with Chief Harteau, have requested that the Department of Justice conduct an independent review of the city’s response to the occupation of the Fourth Precinct station last fall. We have asked that it include community input. I am proud that the occupation ended peacefully, and I believe our response was measured — and we need to know where we could have done better.
• Police officers will start wearing body cameras this year. I campaigned on this promise in 2013, I have fully funded it in my budgets and I am pleased that we won a significant federal grant to help. We are focused right now on making sure community input helps shape the policy that will govern their use.
I thank the officers of the Minneapolis Police Department who work hard every day to help people in their most vulnerable moments, keep our communities safe, and build relationships and trust with the public. The inappropriate actions of some officers — like some Chief Harteau has fired — have created an environment where the work of good officers is doubted and questioned. Chief Harteau and I are grateful for their good work and their service, never more than in this challenging time.
I also thank the community, including those who have protested peacefully, for insisting on this difficult and necessary conversation, and for holding us accountable for real progress. I appreciate those who support the work, and I appreciate those who are skeptical of it. I continue to move forward with an open mind and a hand extended.
To some, this will seem like so much wonky policy talk. These words, however, and these policies reflect real work and real changes that are the building blocks for true transformation. These words, these policies, these expectations, these partnerships, these budgets — these are the tools we have at the city to create transformation. I am using all of them.
Betsy Hodges is mayor of Minneapolis.