I’m thankful for my Northside community, not stupid for living here

I choose to live in North Minneapolis because my neighborhood is a rich community of diverse people in which we really look out for each other and support the wellbeing of the community. We know that North Minneapolis has its challenges with poverty, crime, violence, and overcoming stigma and stereotype.

I choose to live here because I want to be a positive force for good and care in a community that needs good neighbors, like every neighborhood needs good neighbors.

I choose to live here so that my children will not be isolated and sheltered from the diversity in our world as well as the inequality threaded throughout that complex and beautiful diversity.

I don’t want my children to grow up being afraid of those who are different than them, but to seek understanding when they don’t connect with somebody else’s context. I don’t always know how to do this well, but if my family lives within close proximity to this diversity and inequality, hopefully it will be easier to see, process, and to take action against.

And I want to live here to continue to learn about the individuals who make up diverse, urban environments so that my stereotypes and biases can continue to be acknowledged and diminished.

I recently wrote a blog about my experience standing in solidarity with my community, observing the protests and the occupation of the area outside the 4th precinct in North Minneapolis.

Since then, I’ve been down to the 4th precinct once more. After some soul searching, some processing with friends and best friend husband, I needed to write a follow up. This post is less about reporting what is happening and more about my reactions and sorrows as I process the pain in my own heart and in my community.

On Friday night I went down to the precinct again. The officers had shed the riot gear and made more of a conscious effort to stand at the barricade with community members. A few of my friends updated their statuses on Facebook thanking and applauding the MPD for taking a more relaxed stance towards their community.

However, I’m still disheartened. Although it is true many officers had changed their posture from one of ignoring to one of engaging the community, most of them were still doing a poor job of listening. They were talking. Sometimes they heard what those on the other side of the barricade were saying, but in my standards, their words lacked care, empathy and a desire to understand.

I kept hearing rhetoric from officers along the lines of “you have no idea what we have to go through”, and I found that although I agree with the sentiment, I still found it frustrating for the sake of conversation.

This attitude from police is one that demands thanks and respect without earning it. It belittles those who are not part of the community of police because we can be written off and disqualified because “we just don’t know…” poor little ignorant us. It stops the conversation, because, it is true, we don’t know what it is like to be the police.

However, I would like to flip that rhetoric on its head. Like I just said, I can’t argue with not knowing what it is like to be a police officer. But 96% of the MPD doesn’t know what it is like to live in Minneapolis and to care about this community as a resident. Although we don’t know what it is like to be a police officer, it is incredibly likely that they don’t know what it is like to live in the 4th Precinct. If trust is to be built between the community of residents and the community of police, officers must acknowledge that we community members offer an equally valid experience and narrative that they also, largely don’t know about.

This is a video of a policeman at the 4th Precinct barricade boasting that if people knew all the crime that is reported in North Minneapolis, nobody would live here. I take a lot of issue with that and I’ll do my best to break his claim down and explain why it is so unfortunate.

(On a side note, there are a few other concerning things this officer says that for the length of this blog, I won’t get into not. One of those things is that this officer says at the very end of the clip that the culture of crime in North Minneapolis is a race thing since “that’s who lives here”. Ugh! But since I don’t know how or where the rest of that conversation went… I’ll let it be.)

Ok let’s break down his claim into three points:

First, it assumes that people in the community don’t know about the crime going on around them. But we know. This knowledge of the difficult aspects of our community is probably felt in a different way than police feel it, but when you live so close to it, you feel it. I’m apart of a few neighborhood Facebook pages that posts the very crime statistics that this officer is referring to. They are published from MPD each week. The reports are posted on the Facebook groups nearly every week, making them easily available. Obviously, they are also available on the MPD website as well. We even looked at these reports before buying a home here.

What I’m saying is that many of my neighbors research and know what is going on around them, particularly if it is loud and causing a commotion. These Facebook groups are ways that neighbors communicate with each other about many things, but for better or worse, crime and neighborhood watch are inevitably a big topic of conversation.

Another quick point here that I’d like to make are that the police factually may know details about crimes that go down that we don’t always know: where the drug bust is just about to happened, the plates of a stolen car, where someone was shot or shot at. More importantly, they know about these crimes because they respond and sometimes see them first hand. And occasionally neighbors do too, although, albeit probably not nearly as frequently.

Additionally, neighbors relationally know these crimes in light of their lack of factual knowledge. Neighbors personally know the victims, sometimes the perpetrators and also those caught in between. And that relational knowledge of crime is a powerful knowledge that impacts individuals in our community by making us scared from time to time, or by motivating us to band together and support those in our community when they are impacted by crime.

Secondly, we know 96% of Minneapolis Police members choose not to live in Minneapolis (not even specifically North Minneapolis, but all of Minneapolis). And that’s a personal choice. Although I wish a few more would choose to live here to know the community as a resident does, I respect their freedom to choose where they will live.

However, to be convinced that nobody in their right mind would choose to live in North Minneapolis, is an ideology that says I’m stupid for choosing to live here and mocks the reasons why I choose to live here, or at the very least, considers them unimportant. It views the many individuals and families in my community who are trying to strengthen the health of the neighborhoods in North Minneapolis by living here, idiots. It says that residents of North Minneapolis are either criminals, or deceived inhabitants of what should be a lost cause and deserted wasteland. When this is your view of the people you serve and protect, can you be surprised that they find you insulting and lack trust?

Thirdly, this officer’s words aren’t sensitive to the complexity of poverty. Just as there are many residents I know who choose to live here, there are many who are unable to leave because of the inability to find affordable housing elsewhere, or for other significant reasons. Unfortunately, the crime in North can feel overwhelming at times, and some do choose to leave, but many don’t have the luxury of leaving as quickly as they would like, or at all.

I wish that the Police would see me as an ally in creating a safe and healthy community on the North side, instead of calling me stupid for living here. That really cuts deep because not only does insult me, it insults some of my deepest held values. However, this sentiment is not an analysis necessarily of a single video but of many interactions of community members with the police.

I had a neighbor who called the police with a concern in our neighborhood. When the cop arrived after the perceived threat had dissolved, all she got was a lecture about how she should own a gun if she really wants to be safe here.

Another neighbor called the police about domestic violence occurring a few houses away and the police arrived 45 minutes later by simply driving by, not even stopping the car or getting out of the car.

With examples like these, how can I trust the police here? How can the community trust the police?

I haven’t even mentioned any horrific examples of police brutality that are the stories of other neighbors who have either witnessed or been the target of such events. The community needs to be listened to and believed, and healing and lament need to occur.

I don’t know what it will take to help the MPD have an institutional change of heart, but that’s what I want. I’m not calling for the downfall of the MPD, just the serious reformation to include care, respect, and understanding for the community. Let me stress, I’m not “anti-cop”. Because I care about and want to see the MPD be an integral component of a healthy North Minneapolis I am calling for change, certainly not the disposal of.

In an effort to end this on a positive note, that in no way diminishes the negative “notes” above, but seeks to add hope for myself and my neighbors, I’d like to thank and acknowledge some positivity. The few times that I have been down at the precinct, the only officers that I have experienced doing a good job of actually listening to the crowd are John Elder, Public Information Officer, and the officer I witnessed the first night who I believe to be Lt. Medaria Arradondo. After doing some research, unfortunately I don’t believe that either of them currently work out of the 4th Precinct, but as many are appropriately naming specific officers for inappropriate actions, I’d love to add names of those whom I have seen do an upstanding job.

One Response to I’m thankful for my Northside community, not stupid for living here

  1. Carlotta Stomberg

    What a sanctimonious, overbearing, condescending police officer. If the police don’t even respond to calls after city residents dial 9-1-1 to report the sound of gunshots, how can they be aware of what is actually happening in the neighborhoods? What happened to the “peace officer” part of the job? What about being open and interested in the community they serve? This officer who is talking “over the fence” seems to think he is being neutral – but his words are very opinionated. It hurts me – as a non-resident, a parent of my adult son, his wife, and his three children, who ARE residents of North Minneapolis – to see this type of attitude. Bless you for sharing.

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