Building Trust: Cops in the Community (Part 2)
Brooklyn Center is home to more than 30,000 people.
“I love it out here. It’s just a peaceful place,” said Terinda Love, a Minneapolis resident who shops at the Brooklyn Center Walmart.
The officers tasked with protecting and serving Brooklyn Center begin their day at police headquarters on Humboldt Avenue.
“I was looking for a first-ring suburb outside of Minneapolis where I would have an opportunity to have a lot of different experiences, a lot of different cultures, and this is the place that fit perfectly,” said officer Cody Turner, a 10-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Turner is part of the street crimes unit, which is responsible for patrolling Brooklyn Center’s main commercial area.
“We’ll spend a pretty large amount of time in that area doing traffic stops and doing interaction with the public,” he sad.
During each stop he makes, a body camera records every moment of the action.
“The human eye can see a lot more than the camera can,” Turner said. “However, it gives a more first person view of what we’re seeing and what we’re encountering when we’re speaking to somebody in person.”
The body cameras are a tool the Brooklyn Center Police Department’s 49 officers have used for the past year and a half.
“And it’s something that we’ve needed for a long time. And it works very well, not only for court cases, but any type of officer complaint or interactions with the community where there’s some confusion about what was done and what was said,” Turner said.
Yet body cameras can only do so much toward building trust.
Officer Interaction Shapes Public Perception
Officer Turner let CCX News tag along on a recent shift. He says how police interact with the public on patrol goes a long way toward shaping public perception.
“I’ve had, across the board, very good interactions with a lot of people in the public,” Turner said. “And it’s very rare that they turn negative or anything like that. And the majority of the people go away happy, even if some type of enforcement action is taken.”
On a normal day, Turner could stop anywhere between five to 15 cars. During the ride-along, it didn’t take long before he noticed a car with a cracked windshield and a missing a front license plate. Instead of issuing a citation, he took a different approach.
“I’m not gonna give you any citations today,” Turner said to the driver. “But you need to make sure that you go ahead and get the windshield fixed, okay.”
He even offered the kids in the back seat a treat. It’s a simple interaction that he used as an educational opportunity.
“Citations are very expensive, and a lot of times, these issues that are wrong with these vehicles require money to repair them,” Turner said. “So if we’re charging them a fine, on top of that, they have to spend money to repair the vehicle and still put food on the table. It’s kind of counter-intuitive.”
During a 10-hour shift, he also teaches lessons while he patrols the city’s retail core.
“Hey make sure you use the crosswalk please, okay,” Turner said to a man who was jaywalking. “Use the crosswalk please so you don’t get hit by a car.”
Police Undergo Annual Communication Training
Officer Turner also chats with folks who simply want to say hello.
“I believe over here in Brooklyn Center, the police officers I’ve encountered are very nice,” said Terinda Love, the Walmart shopper.
If that’s the perception, then it means the training the officers go through has paid off.
“Every year at least two or three times a year, we will have department-wide trainings for our in-service, where we go through scenario-based training,” Turner said. “Where we’re continually sharpening our skills at communicating with people, and de-escalation, things like that.”
It’s a formula that Brooklyn Center police believe has helped them develop a good relationship with the public.
“Brooklyn Center will be the prototype for what’s right, seriously,” Love said. “Because they’re always calm. Always.”
Crime Trends Downward
Brooklyn Center has had its share of challenges, but recent economic development has pumped new life into the city. Police say that’s one reason safety has improved.
Over the last 10 years, crime in Brooklyn Center has trended downwards. Currently, violent crime is down 16 percent compared to 2017.