Improving community and police relations within communities of color is one of the most ambitious goals Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has set for himself, especially considering he came into office at a time when tensions with police in communities of color are at a high level.
Though he has only been in office for just over 100 days, he recently sat down with the MSR and explained, among other things, how he plans on making Minneapolis’ system of public safety less threatening and more trusted within communities of color.
Coming into office after a series of incidents involving the shootings of unarmed people, Frey recognized there is a lot of hard work to do. Moreover, he knows that there is no universal solution to these problems agreed upon among his constituents, or even within the confines of City Hall.
“There…are systemic racism policies that have harmed specifically people of color, and we need to make sure that the precision of our solutions matches the precision of the harm initially inflicted,” Frey said.
The two most prominent policies that Frey has stood behind for improving police and community relations are a new body camera policy and the hiring of more police officers.
Frey’s support of adding more police officers to the MPD was met with pushback during community events and public forums in March and April. Frey contends that right now police officers are overworked, and the result is damage to the trust the community has in them.
“If an officer is 40 minutes late to one 911 call, has a horrible interaction with the community followed by being 45 minutes late to the next one, that’s no way to build trust,” Frey explained. He also said that it is statistically proven that when “you’re overworked when you are forced to make split-second decisions when you’ve been fatigued due to a number of poor experiences, implicit bias is far more likely to come out.”
But Frey acknowledged that just giving officers more time for themselves isn’t going to get rid of implicit bias on its own. He said, “We want to bake implicit bias training into the program.”
Frey’s rationale for adding more police officers is that it will give them more time to respond to calls and have more positive interactions, which will lead to better overall police-community relations.
Frey made it clear, however, that there is not a specific number of cops he wants to add, nor a timetable for when he wants to add them.
Body camera policy
The new body camera policy has already been put into action. The new policy includes more detailed specifications about when officers are supposed to activate their body cameras and when they can turn them off, as well as more specific punishments for misuse of body cameras. According to a joint press release from Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, “Incidents requiring activation that had body camera video increased from 55% in February 2018 to 81% in April 2018.”
“Any body camera policy worth its salt must have consequences when compliance isn’t met, and this one does,” Frey said about the new policy.
Officers who violate the policy can face up to 720 hours of unpaid suspension and even termination if they do not comply with the new policy.
The bigger picture
Beyond the updated body camera policy, Frey said there needs to be what he referred to as a “cultural shift” within the police department if things are really going to improve.
“That means hiring diversity in communities of color. That means hiring from the North Side specifically, and it’s changing both the internal culture as well as the external perception,” Frey said.
Frey pointed out that right now only eight percent of Minneapolis police live in the city, and to change that he wants to hire more cops of color from Minneapolis. More diverse hiring will lead to better trust within the community, he said.
“You’re not going to have safe communities until everyone trusts the cops, and right now that is not the case, especially amongst communities of color. So we have work to do. We need safety, too. You heard it pretty clear. People are getting shot.”