Brooklyn Park City Council Receives Preliminary Recommendations for Police Reform
The Brooklyn Park City Council is closer to having a concrete action plan to help minority members of the community who may feel unfair treatment by police. The city’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) and Mulicultural Advisory Committee (MAC) presented a set of preliminary recommendations to the council on Monday, Nov. 16.
“I think this is a wonderful first step,” said Wynfred Russell, currently the Brooklyn Park City Council’s lone Black member.
The preliminary recommendations were put together after several community listening sessions and meetings with city leaders following the Minneapolis officer-involved killing of George Floyd on May 25. Dr. Aja King, chair of the Brooklyn Park Human Rights Commission, says the recommendations aren’t meant to be an “us versus them,” but a way to help police do their jobs.
“I think what these recommendations are really doing is not to undermine their work, because, I have also worked with police officers and firefighters and people who work in crisis situations and I know it’s taxing not just be that professional, but it’s also taxing on their mental health and their capacity to feel like they’re doing well,” said Dr. King, who works as a mental health therapist.
Addressing Mental Health Needs
King says when officers get hired they get a mental health screening. But there are no required screenings after that.
“There are no screenings after they are introduced or after they experience a crisis, whether that’s a shooting or just a massive crime scene,” said King. “There aren’t any well-being checks that they have to do. It’s voluntary.”
From her experience as a mental health professional, King said she also hears about trauma caused by someone’s past encounter with police.
“From clients that I’ve worked with over the years who have had bad encounters with police officers, their body has a visceral reaction to police officers even when they’re not doing anything,” said King, a mother of two Black sons.
A List of Nine Recommendations
The HRC and MAC presented a list of nine recommendations. They include reviewing funding for the city’s mental health unit, which launched last year. The team includes a police detective and a licensed social worker who go through cases and works to helps people who suffer from mental illness.
“We do believe the investment for mental health services is necessary, especially if we’re talking about restorative justice options for misdemeanor crimes,” said King.
The recommendations also include supporting ongoing mental health training for police. Council members say the mental health component will come at a cost.
“The mental health issue is the one that I think is going to cost us a lot of money,” said Brooklyn Park City Council member Terry Parks. “It’s something that I think we’re all looking at, but we have to be willing to spend the money to do it. And that’s a concern.”
Another recommendation is improving and increasing police de-escalation training with an emphasis on culturally appropriate procedures. HRC and MAC also recommend implementing a crisis response team, which could include working more closely with local faith leaders to secure crime scenes and calm crowds. Brooklyn Park police say securing crime scenes was a problem during a surge in violent crime this summer as police orders were largely ignored.
Brooklyn Park City Manager Jay Stroebel said staff will come back to the city council on Nov. 30 with cost estimates for recommendations that would need funding. The Brooklyn Park City Council is scheduled to approve a final budget on Dec. 7.
King says the recommendations won’t solve all the problems in the eyes of the community. She says it will take work beyond police reform.
“Do we have enough job opportunities?” said King. “And if we have enough job opportunities, is it based on a livable wage? So we really want to look at the underbelly and the real crux of the situation.”