Minneapolis is reviving an old police-community relations council as it seeks to bolster residents' faith in the city's police department two years after George Floyd's murder.
The revamped Police Community Relations Council will hold its first public meeting Thursday. Its members include representatives from local community groups, youth, and police supervisors.
"I think that it's a sign that the police department and community are willing to work together," said Christopher Gaiters, chief of staff to interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman, who helped negotiate the group's return. Gaiters added that one of their primary goals is "making sure that we are serving the community in a manner that the community wants to be served."
The revival of the PCRC is one of dozens of terms outlined in a memorandum of understanding reached last week between the city and members of the Unity Community Mediation Team, a group that includes representatives from local organizations working to improve accountability for police and reduce violence throughout the city.
The PCRC first formed in 2003 as part of a landmark agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice amid an effort to soothe community tensions that had been strained by the fatal police shooting of a machete-wielding Somali man, followed by a riot a few months later in north Minneapolis.
The group, which struggled with infighting, fizzled in 2008, when members failed to reach an agreement to extend its work. Some questioned its effectiveness, while others said the group had accomplished about 70% of its original goals.
Shortly after Floyd's murder, the Unity Community Mediation Team began talks to revive the PCRC. "I really believe that we wouldn't have been in the position that we're in today had the city, the Minneapolis Police Department, adhered to that original agreement," said the Rev. Ian Bethel, who served on the earlier group and serves as a chair of the revamped version.
Bethel said they made several changes while reinstating the PCRC, including efforts to boost representation for youth and members of the Somali, Latino, and LGBTQ communities, among others. They also updated the terms of the memorandum of understanding that group members will be tasked with implementing.
The new document expands upon some changes the department was already making in other forums, such as efforts to update use of force policies or boost wellness programs for officers.
It also calls for new measures, such as the revival of the PCRC and the establishment of new crisis response teams that would allow community members to serve as a liaison between officers, crime victims and their families during traumatic incidents. Bethel said they hope to get assistance from "philanthropic communities" to establish those teams.
The terms could be updated, if the city reaches settlements with state or federal authorities who conducted their own probes into the department. "We wanted to make sure that this is a perpetual document, regardless of who the mayor would be or who the chief would be," Bethel said.
The first public meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at New Beginnings Baptist Ministries, 4301 First Ave S.
Read the document: