Members of a normally quiet south Minneapolis neighborhood are turning anger into specific actions against police brutality. The recent police shooting of their neighbor Justine Damond after she called 911 struck a nerve. Since the shooting many neighbors have been looking to do more than offer hopes and prayers.
“This is not a sit and jawbone talk about the problem type of meeting,” Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) told a crowd of about 100 people on Tuesday night. “This is a let’s find some solutions and get busy working on those solutions meeting.”
Gross’s organization has been working for years on how to reduce police violence in the Twin Cities area. She had a ready list of some concrete “evidenced based” actions people could take and invited the crowd to split into smaller groups to discuss them.
“Actions need to be evidenced based. They can’t just be ‘oh I think it would be a good idea’. We need to have some idea of is it effective elsewhere. Is it going to work here, ” Gross told the crowd.
On the wall were four broad action areas: accountability, body cameras, policies and training as well as some specific things people could do now. Several of those ideas got support.
Gross says there were a number of solutions people agreed to work on including:< • Demilitarization of police • Replace the Office of Police Conduct Review with a real police accountability mechanism • Lobby the chief to adopt a "reset" mechanism that will allow him to discipline conduct that has not been disciplined in the past • Better training for dealing with people in mental health crisis • Changing who responds to mental health crisis (mental health professionals rather than police) • De-escalation training • Updates on body camera policy including clarifying when the camera needs to be on, preventing police from reviewing the footage before writing their report, enacting technology for automatic activation, and discipline for disobeying the policy. On Wednesday Mayor Betsy Hodges and acting police chief Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo announced the city was changing its body cam policy effective this Saturday. Cameras would now be turned on in almost all encounters with the public. However officers will still be allowed to review their body cam video before writing their reports.
The CUAPB says allowing officers to review their video before writing reports is “highly problematic for a number of reasons”. It is important to know why an officer stopped someone which establishes their “probable cause.”
The CUAPB points to an article from Sam Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, where he says “if an officer is planning to lie, video is a good guide to what kind of lie he can get away with.”
Kimberly Handy Jones, the mother of Cordale Handy who was shot by St. Paul police told those gathered Tuesday night that Damond’s shooting shows that no one is safe from police violence. “But what is necessary is we come together as one. That we stop looking at the color of our skin. The color of your skin as you can see has no value. It has none. What has value is in you, as a human being, as a person.”