Brooklyn Park Committees Start Roadmap to Improve Policing
The Brooklyn Park Human Rights Commission and the city’s Multicultural Advisory Committee have started developing a roadmap to improve policing in the city. The Brooklyn Park City Council provided feedback on that roadmap Monday night.
“After the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, police officers and several other police-involved deaths have raised the conscientiousness of our community concerned about police operations, especially when it comes to our black and brown citizens,” said Cindy Shevlin-Woodcock, a member of the city’s Human Rights Commission.
In June the city council and Brooklyn Park Police Chief Craig Enevoldsen tasked the two committees with developing a workplan for police reform. The committees spent the past month researching and identifying possible solutions. Several listening sessions on policing, including one scheduled for Wednesday evening, are also helping to gather input.
“Systemic racism is at the core of the problem,” Shevlin-Woodcock said. “Discrimination and bias permeate the criminal justice system in the United States.”
10 Recommendations So Far
The citizen groups provided 10 recommendations so far. It’s a list that will continue to be discussed and refined in the coming weeks. Recommendations include:
- Provide more robust data and information. This recommendation includes creating a listening group for youth ages 12-25 and compiling data on number of school resource officer arrests. It also includes more analysis of traffic arrest data.
- Build an anti-racial policing culture. This includes having retired officer Ken Banks, an African American, give input to the department. This provision also includes improving training on de-escalation techniques and having the city hire an anti-racist specialist.
- Ensure police officers are emotionally well. The groups recommend a mandatory annual trauma assessment for all officers and give officers sabbaticals every five years for three months to study the community.
- Enforce accountability-based performance. This involves disciplining and removing officers who violate code of conduct.
- Redistribute funds upstream. This recommendation includes reviewing funding for mental health team and funding evidence-based programs to increase community safety (this could include housing, food security and recreation)
- Create civilian oversight board for transparency
- Eliminate systemic racism. This provision involves review of police policies and protocols to ‘demilitiarize’ policing.
- Build community engagement
- Our people protecting our people. This would create a plan for hiring non-white officers who are Brooklyn Park residents and provides incentives for peace officers to live in Brooklyn Park. It would also make the city’s police Explorers program a paid internship for 11-12 graders.
- Reduce punitive and increase restorative. This suggestion would decriminalize non-dangerous offenses and reduce citations that cause financial hardships.
“We’re Not Minneapolis”
City Council members discussed the recommendations and provided feedback
“For myself, I can see a lot in here that I really like, I can see some stuff I’m not sure about, and I can see some stuff that I have a lot of questions,” said Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeffrey Lunde.
Lunde also encouraged the groups to find evidence of both pros and cons for the recommendations. He mentioned school resource officers (SROs) as an example.
“SRO subject is touchy because a lot of people don’t like, there are a lot more people who do like it,” said Lunde.
Brooklyn Park City Council member Terry Parks shared a similar sentiment. He believes the George Floyd tragedy set the city “back years” of the goodwill its police department was trying to build with minority communities.
“I want to make sure we don’t spend a lot of time trying to fix something that’s not broken,” said Parks.”I think our police department has been way ahead of a lot of the police departments. We’re not Minneapolis. I don’t want to be Minneapolis.”
Council member Mark Mata raised the point that there will have to be give and take on both sides, noting the police union will also be a factor in implementing the recommendations. Council member Lisa Jacobson said there will have to be a way to measure success should the recommendations get implemented. Other council members also weighed in.
“We may have a great police department, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tweak some things here, we can shift some things, we can change some things around. Continuous improvement is important,” said Wynfred Russell.
Russell says some listening sessions haven’t included enough African American men.
Added Brooklyn Park City Council member Tonja West-Hafner, “We’re not making decisions tonight. We have a lot more work to do.”