After a more than yearlong search, St. Paul has a new human rights director.
Valerie Jensen, a local diversity and inclusion consultant and adjunct professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, will lead the city’s Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) department starting Jan. 6, according to a news release from the city Thursday.
“Valerie Jensen’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion has been the foundation of her work in our community,” Mayor Melvin Carter said in a statement. “As HREEO director, this commitment and her broad range of experience will be an incredible asset to our city.”
Also in a statement, Jensen said she is “excited to step in and lead HREEO in its work to create true access and opportunity for all residents.”
The director job has been vacant since August 2018, when Jessica Kingston resigned and received a $250,000 settlement from the city. In an interview last year, Kingston said she repeatedly raised concerns that the police department was blocking investigations of officer misconduct but said her concerns went unheeded. Toni Newborn, the city’s chief equity officer, has held the position on an interim basis.
As director, Jensen will oversee multiple divisions and be responsible for enforcement of the city’s Earned Sick and Safe Time and minimum wage laws. She will also oversee the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission, the civilian body that investigates St. Paul police misconduct. The commission’s chair and vice-chair both resigned in June, saying city officials — including Carter — did not support their work.