The meeting was called to order at 6:15 by Emilie Quast. 19 attenders
2-PAC has a new parole officer! Welcome Holly Ihrke, Hennepin County Probation Officer assigned to the 2nd Precinct.*
Our speaker is Sgt. Jose Gomez. Sgt. Gomez has been in the MPD for 25 years. He started at the 2nd Precinct in 1995. 4 years later he moved to Narcotics and Gang Investigations where he worked for 15 years. After a promotion, he became a street supervisor, and then went to Internal Affairs (investigating other officers) — a very difficult job. It was, however, the assignment that led to the Community Engagement Team — clearly, a job he enjoys.
Sgt Gomez leads the Community Engagement Team to meet its assigned missions:
- To work to build trust and strong relationships with the many ethnic communities in Minneapolis.
- To help with more complex cases such as those in which there is a language barrier.
- To be available to community members who want to offer information they don’t want to share with regular officers or investigators.
Additional stated missions include presenting at citizen academies, community lectures and focus groups; offering training programs (dealing with violent extremism); recruiting youth to join the Police Activities League and the Police Explorers Program; assisting recruitment officers to attract candidates who will reflect Minneapolis culture.
The CET’s primary function is to build trust with the community. We’re all aware that our city is multi-cultural. The CET has officers who are familiar with certain cultures, who can meet people and talk with them, including Native American, Latinex, SE Asian, African-American, East African, LGBTQ (the only civilian). There is a youth engagement officer, and an officer who understands the needs of the MPHA (public housing) community and who works with people who have mental health needs. Officers do get moved out as they are needed on the street to answer high priority calls. They don’t always get replaced right away. Other will shift in to see if the CET is a good fit for them.
When a block or a neighborhood is the scene of a trauma, it’s the CET’s mission to show up (probably in the ice cream truck), engage and assure the kids that the MPD cares a lot about them. Then they go door knocking and start talking to the adults in the surrounding homes. At most stops, they get a variety of responses, ranging from people who are very worried about the incident to people who actually didn’t hear about it. Either way, the purpose is to start talking with people, be open to conversations, offer facts to combat rumor, and to make friends.
The Community Engagement Team offers a number of regular events.
The most frequent is the Bike Cops for Kids weekly report that shows up Thursday mornings on email feeds, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The BCFK report shows about a dozen new pictures of the Bike Cop team, taken that week, all around the city, handing out ice cream and freezies in hot weather, winter gloves at school bus stops on cold mornings, basketballs, footballs (and now: soccer balls) and bike helmets any place they are needed. This program is funded by donations of goods from Children’s Hospitals, grocery stores, and a lot of other organizations and individuals around the city. (Fact: even the ice cream truck was donated.) It’s a constant good will presence in Minneapolis, year around. Information about signing up to get this report is at the bottom of this page.
Parks Programs: The CET throws a BBQ in the Parks at 3 or 4 locations around town every year. The partner in this event is the St. Paul Police Foundation, thanks to members of the Campion family. They get other MPD teams like the K-9s, the bomb squad truck, and other teams to add to the show.
Take Back the Parks: officers discovered that people in some neighborhoods, day care places were afraid to walk their children across the street and into the park for recess because gang bangers had started hanging out there. When the CET heard about this, they started just showing up just one random day a week. When they did that, the gang bangers just dispersed and the officers could play with the kids as long as needed.
The CET signs up to serve dinners at House of Charity once a week, just working the service line until everyone has food, and then staying to talk to people. As they got to know people, they realized that some had chronic issues like addiction, mental health issues or other problems. When something goes wrong, the team has the background to offer a positive response. There is a special care clinic across the street. If the problem seems to need it, and if the person agrees, the CET can walk the person across the street and help them get the care they need.
Other occasional events include “Chat with the Chief” (Chief Arradondo at various small businesses across town), visits to the Ronald McDonald House once a month, and more.
They’ve created a “See Something, Say Something” and presented it to over 15,000 people at events.
About twice a month, 5 of the team travel down to the Red Wing Youth Correctional Facility. The population of this place is about 80% from Hennepin County, and most of those are from Minneapolis. Youth who enter this program start at level 1, as they meet expectations, they move up. When they’ve reached level 5, they are almost ready to move out; those are the boys the team focuses on.
Too many of these boys have no home or (if they have a home) no support at home, no extended family, no mentoring adult in their lives, and no way of figuring out a plan for their future. Being alone makes you vulnerable, so many of these boys turn or turn back to gangs for support. That choice is likely to get them back in Red Wing, which has a high recidivism statistic (72%!) The CET offers to be a positive resource for them. The officers get to know the boys personally before they are released. Every boy knows how to contact a member of the team. If they call, the officers will meet, offer lunch, just talk, find solutions to their problems, maybe help them find a job, try to help them keep their focus on creating a future.
Chief Arradono and the MPD has gathered department-wide resources under an umbrella called Procedural Justice. The CET is part of this drive, and so can more quickly move boys into programs they can use. [EQ: More information at https://www.insidempd.com/focusing-on-procedural-justice/]
[EQ: To follow this team, send an email to “Sergeant Gomez” – Jose.Gomez@minneapolismn.gov – OR “Officer Mike” – Michael.Kirchen@minneapolismn.gov – and they’ll add you to the mailing list of your choice: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email. OR, you can follow the BCFK story on the MPD page: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#search/bike+cops/FMfcgxwDrHpMwXRMHpVtHTKGMnxtjhXr?compose=DmwnWrRnZFHkDCnRpRmCDfrhdGJxhMvZVKHzJSCtSnQVFvqXvlGhqVRpjKBnlHRVpCKGCsWWJWVG or the Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/bikecopsforkids/
*This is Ms Ihrke’s correct title — a previous report named a different one — EQ
Emilie Quast, board memberMPD Second Precinct PACMinneapolis MN 55418