Brooklyn Park City Council Discusses Violent Crime Spike, Police Reform
Brooklyn Park City Council members dove into the topics of police reform and racial justice, but also weighed in on crime issues that have grown increasingly alarming in certain parts of the city.
At their Aug. 31 meeting, city leaders agreed quick action is needed.
“I have lived in Brooklyn Park for over 30 years, and I’d like to say maybe almost 40, and I have not seen it like this,” said Brooklyn Park City Council member Mark Mata.
Brooklyn Park City Manager Jay Stroebel acknowledged that while overall crime is at a more than 30-year low, violent crime has increased. Some of the high-profile cases this summer occurred around the area of 63rd and Zane Avenues. During the last weekend of August, police responded to three shootings that left five people with gunshot wounds. One of the shooting victims died.
“It’s not all over town, it’s an area,” said Mata.”And pretty soon the people who live there are just going to move.”
Mata raised concerns whether the recent crime spike could lead to a bigger problem with reduced home values and destabilized neighborhoods.
“So what’s it going to turn over and be like at that point?” he said.
Police Reform Also Entered Into Equation
Solving the recent uptick in crime will have to come as the city grapples with budget tightening as well as a deeper focus into the future of policing. The city’s Human Right Commission and Multicultural Advisory Commission are currently looking at ideas for police reform after the death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. Brooklyn Park City Council member Susan Pha says she’s hearing from residents who are growing impatient that they haven’t seen quick enough action on the police reform issue.
“I just don’t want us to be in a situation where we’re passing this onto a commission, because honestly I’d be afraid if I were on the HRC, thinking everybody is waiting on us,” said Pha.
There’s no timeline yet when the volunteer bodies tasked with police reform will present their recommendations. The five specific areas of focus identified are:
- Building an anti-racist culture
- Reducing punitive and increasing restorative
- Build community engagement
- Redistribute funds upstream
- Enforce accountability
But council members also felt the solution shouldn’t just fall on those volunteer commissions. Some also believe the city is already acting on areas being addressed for improvement.
“People have this perception that every single city has exactly the same problems and exactly the same structure and work exactly the same in every department, and they don’t,” said Brooklyn Park City Council member Tonja West-Hafner. “We are very different, in my opinion, than the city of Minneapolis. I think we’re a lot more proactive.”
The city council plans to hold a special work session on Tuesday, Sept. 8 to discuss police reform as well as its budget.
City Short on Officers
Addressing the recent crime issues will also have to come as the city is currently down officers. Stroebel says the city is about six or seven short of full authorization, which is 107 full-time officers. Five cadets are almost finished with training that the city is looking to hire, said Stroebel. They could be ready for duty this fall or early next year.
But city leaders also feel the solution will have to be more than adding officers.
“Everybody wishes this was like a light switch, and we can turn this violence off,” said Stroebel. “Obviously, we all know that some of the underlying root causes around this kind of situation goes very deep.”