Conclusion of a two-part story
Approximately 300 people, including 27 mayors of 43 cities, attended the Cities United Conference hosted by Minneapolis on August 23-25. Last week’s top MSR story began our report on the event; this story completes that report.
The Jamar Clark shooting tragedy in 2015 and the almost three-week Fourth Precinct protest and occupation that followed prompted City and police officials to seek new ways to address future such incidents.
“A Strategic Resource for Mayors on Police-Involved Shootings and In-Custody Deaths” is one of multiple projects that Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and City officials collaborated on with Cities United, a Louisville, Kentucky based advocacy group, to focus on reducing violence in the nation’s cities, especially among Black men and youth.
The report began with an introduction: “We intend the resource to serve as a compilation of suggested steps that can be utilized by each city, designed [to] equip mayors and city leaders with the steps, information and tools they need to address and prevent the different forms of violence affecting African American boys and young men in their respective cities…necessary information and action steps to address not just the incidents themselves, but also the underlying, complex and systemic issues that contribute to violence.”
Several suggested actions to prevent police-involved shootings include:
- build trust with all communities;
- rethink police use of force and emphasize de-escalation tactics in police training;
- establish “an external and independent investigation and prosecution” of police-involved shootings and deaths; provide more focus on balancing the need to protect safety and property with residents’ constitutional right to assemble peacefully;
- have better communication with “each key constituent,” including affected families, police rank and file, other municipal, county, state and federal leaders, community and faith leaders, youth and school leaders, and business and philanthropy leaders; and
- build relationships with media, “establishing an active presence on social media channels.”
Mayor Betsy Hodges proudly announced that “Minneapolis is a proud member of Cities United,” adding that nearly 100 cities are also members and that Minneapolis is not the only city to experience violent crime.
Cities United Executive Director Anthony Smith noted that Minneapolis is doing some of the most innovative work in the country. He said Cities United provided technical assistance to help Hodges facilitate conversations with the community to put together a system where she could “give more dollars to the people who really need it. We spent a lot of time with her putting this together.”
Smith said part of Cities United’s mission is to help mayors and city leaders “get out of [the] comfort zone that leaders have and capture the imagination of a city to find the resources to invest in the technical assistance [and bring] young people to the table.”
Cities United helped Hodges with two specific projects last August. The first was last summer’s launch of the Collaborative Public Safety Strategies program for Little Earth of United Tribes in South Minneapolis and the West Broadway corridor in North Minneapolis. According to a City press release, both communities have been more harmed by violence than others. “The city solicited ideas from youth and community for how to create safe, healthy, and hopeful neighborhoods…” and allocated a total of $500,000 to the two areas.
“We are hearing stories about the projects that people are doing,” Hodges told the MSR, adding that her office hasn’t yet fully assessed the program.
The second project was the Next Step Hospital-Based Intervention Project, launched in July 2016. It is a partnership between the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) to serve victims of violent injury (such as gunshot, stabbing or serious assault) ages 12-28 being treated at HCMC.
The goal of the program is to “reduce the rate of violent re-injury and re-hospitalization for youth and young adults who are victims of violent assault injuries.” According to the one-year progress report released last month:
- 64 out of 98 (65 percent) individuals receiving services were Black; out of those numbers, 74 were males (76 percent), 45 persons (46 percent) were between the ages of 25-59; 38 persons were between ages 18-24.
- As of June 30, only three persons returned to HCMC with a violent injury.
- Nearly 60 percent of the participants developed a goal plan, and 70 percent of those who developed a goal plan completed at least one goal related to safety, housing, mental or physical health, access to basic needs, employment, education, positive activities or areas that promote holistic healing.
According to the report, “The Next Step program has had a significant impact on the HCMC culture regarding how victims of violent injury and their support systems are served. HCMC clinical staff now routinely refer patients and families to Next Step and are developing ‘an active partnership’ with local clergy members.”
“The City and HCMC absolutely believe that the Next Step program is worth continuing,” said Josh Peterson, a City of Minneapolis senior public health specialist, in an email to the MSR. “By treating violence as a public health epidemic and using innovative and collaborative approaches, we are more likely to both stop the immediate spread and counteract the long-term ripple effects of trauma.”
Peterson added that the Minnesota Office of Justice Programs and the City helped fund Next Step through the first year. Said Peterson, “The Health Department and HCMC are working to secure additional funding from those and other sources to continue Next Step in a sustainable fashion.”
Hodges said Cities United is very helpful: “I started using all of the ideas they had.” She said the city’s citizens are benefiting from their help but pointed out that there is still work left to do in Minneapolis.
Said Smith regarding unifying cities against African American violence, “It’s more than about Cities United. It’s [about uniting] over 100 cities.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.