Meet Hennepin County Sheriff candidate Joseph Banks

Joseph Banks
Submitted photo

Hennepin County Sheriff Candidate Joseph Banks built his law enforcement career from the ground up. With more than 20 years of service, he’s assumed many law enforcement roles.

Banks started his career in south suburban Illinois as a Police Explorer with the Boy Scouts of America. After joining the United States Marine Reserves, he returned home and started his first law enforcement job as a police dispatcher, and later became a part-time police officer. 

After moving to Minnesota in 1993, he worked in security while earning his law enforcement degree. While attending Central Lakes College in Brainerd, he became Brainerd Police Department’s first African American Police Officer intern. He also served in the Minnesota Army National Guard while completing his degree in criminal justice. 

Banks worked for the Lower Sioux Police Department and became the first African American police officer hired by the department. He went on to become the first African American police chief for the Upper Sioux Police Department. 

He later served as the first African American police chief for the city of Morton. Afterwards, he returned to the Lower Sioux Police Department serving as chief investigator and acting chief of police. 

Banks is co-founder of two nonprofits—Twin Cities Recovery Project Inc., designed to support pathways to recovery, and Black Butterfly, which aims to assist young women of color experiencing the criminal justice system to stabilize and reconnect them with the community and become productive members of society.  

Banks also is CEO/president of Banks Securities Inc., which assists in criminal expungement resources. He co-hosts a podcast called “Let’s Talk About It,” airing Wednesdays from 4-5 pm on local cable Channel 6 and on Facebook. Currently, Banks works as a licensed bail bondsman. He recently spoke to the MSR about his candidacy for Hennepin County Sheriff.

MSR: What inspired you to pursue a career in law enforcement?

JB: I always liked giving back and exploring as a kid. I grew up knowing and respecting the cops in our area. I wanted to learn and help build peer relationships between law enforcement and the community.

MSR: What is your day-to-day like in your current role, and how has it helped you reimagine the criminal justice system?

JB: Currently I am a bail agent and assist folks with the criminal justice system and getting out of jail. Many individuals who are incarcerated are living a life of recovery. I’ve worked with PARI (Police Assistive Recovery Initiative) and co-founded my own nonprofit to help individuals in those situations. 

MSR: What type of work have you done this past year to investigate ways of improving the correctional system?

JB: I’ve done a lot of reading on what has and hasn’t been working. I think it’s critical that we have to strengthen our community. We need to educate people. We need to build PR and work on the community seeing police as people and citizens. Cops need to ask themselves, ‘Have I utilized my training to achieve the best possible outcome?’ 

MSR: What are your goals when/if elected to this position?

JB: First would be to drop violent crime in Hennepin County. The community feels held hostage due to gun violence. Next would be to unify the community and law enforcement together to build a collaborative relationship. 

MSR: What would be your priorities during your first term as sheriff?

JB: Educating folks and lowering violent crime.  I’d also focus on people’s ability to help change laws and bring about change. I’d hold camps and clinics together with legislators and cities to help change outdated laws and ordinances. I’d work with federal partners to address gun violence, and put a system in place for tracking guns.  

MSR: What does accountability look like to you?

JB: Holding folks to the proper standards. Treating citizens as people first. We’re all whistleblowers. If an officer is doing something illegal or doing something wrong, officers shouldn’t feel afraid of retaliation by other officers. 

Police officers are there to protect citizens. They need to be willing to intervene and hold each other accountable. I think an oversight committee of citizens and officers to look at incidents that arise would be beneficial. They’d be able to review situations and move on them much faster than waiting for the current system to work.  

MSR: What place do the police have in the community, and what are your thoughts on the calls to defund the police?

JB: I think the calls to defund the police came out of wanting better professionally trained police officers. Officers are members of the community and are responsible for guarding the community. They are there to protect civil liberties. 

I’d like to see a housing incentive that would encourage officers to live in the community they serve, so people know their people. We need to encourage the community so that citizens are interested in becoming police officers. I salute cops who are sticking around who want to come to work and do the job the right way. 

MSR: Are you looking into recruitment options from the community directly?

JB: I plan to put together a Sheriff’s Athletic League Association. Teens, adults and police officers would be on the same team. 

I really want to bring the community and cops together. I’d like to do something like St. Cloud has done with their Cop House. [St. Cloud’s Cop House is home to a handful of police officers that provide protection in addition to other services such as health care, social services, after-school homework programs, and even ambulatory services.]

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