Last night I attended a North Minneapolis community meeting on crime prevention and safety. Four officers and their commander were in attendance at the local gym to present their duties and talk with the community.
After a short presentation by our city council member the forum began, and it didn’t take long for the fireworks to start. Our community has been shaken and frustrated by the murder of Jamar Clark, and unarmed African American, at the hands of our police. There has been a lack of transparency and a breakdown in dialogue. The voices of our African American community have not been heard, and the frustration is boiling over.
Here’s what I observed:
- The police panel was not a true representation of the police force. They picked 2 of their 3 african american officers on staff, 1 asian female officer, 1 white officer who was raised in north and their commander. In reality, the vast majority of the police force is suburban white. None of the officers currently live in our community.
- The officers present did their best to answer community questions and concerns, but it was obvious that they don’t really understand the people they serve. For example, a youth coach from the area described an incident she was eye witness to: A police car yelled at kids to get out of the street. When they didn’t move fast enough, the officer struck one of the boys with their car, then proceeded to cuff him and take him to the station. They held the youth all afternoon, then released him at midnight to walk home by himself.
- The question was: “What are the officers doing to prevent situations like this? ” The answer was a personal story from one of the African American officers about going to Applebee’s to have chicken wings, then having another white officer pull him over. Because he was respectful, he was let go. He did not answer the question and showed a disconnect over many of our citizens’ frustrations and the response of the force.
- His main point, I guess, was that citizens need to be held accountable for their actions. If they aren’t doing anything wrong and are being respectful, nothing bad should happen. This simply isn’t the case. African American males are harassed and incarcerated at a disparaging rate.
- The officers continued to state that the community needs to be held accountable for their actions. I agree. If we break the law, there should be penalty. However, our contention is that the same rules don’t apply to the force. This was highlighted by the murder of Jamar Clark 4 months ago. There has not been any indictments or prosecution in the case. The tapes have not been released to the public. If this were any other criminal case (not involving an officer), there would be charges brought based on the amount of eye witness accounts.
- Last year, there were over 1,000 citizen complaints to the police department. The vast majority of these complaints go untouched and are not addressed. The system is highly unionized and has little to no transparency. Something must be done to make steps toward peace in our community, and I believe public apologies and recognition of wrong doing when it happens would go a long way.
- As a society, we have forgotten how to have public discourse. Throughout the meeting, there was shouting, name calling like “Uncle Tom!”, budging in line for the mic, interruption, and a disregard for neighbors.
- The event was not advertised well, and it seemed as though it may have been on purpose to avoid or minimize confrontation.
At one point, the meeting had broken down to the point where the city council member facilitating the discussion began stamping and shouting into the microphone: “Shut up! Shut up!”
His actions at that moment epitomizes the frustration of the community. My neighbors are frustrated that their voice isn’t being heard. People in authority arrive and consistently tell them to “Shut up!”. I’ve witnessed this behavior from our police force on more than 1 occasion. Excessive use of force and intimidation seem to be the first move instead of the last resort all too often. As a by-stander and member of the community, it was frustrating to be cut in front of and shouted over by my neighbors. I felt like I was in the pre-school milk line again with all the budging in line and name calling. However, I value my neighbor and want to hear their voice; even if they don’t value mine.
During the shouting match between the city councilman and my neighbors, I heard the council man ask the police, “should we call it?” It seemed as though the meeting would end right then. But, for whatever reason, he handed me the mic.
I said, “I’m going to do the only thing I know how to do at this moment: Jesus, we need You. Please come Holy Spirit, and bring your peace, your presence, and your civility and humility to this room. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
From that moment forward, the meeting took a different tone. A lady afterward mentioned to me, “Did you notice after you prayed, things got different?” “Jesus has a way of doing that, doesn’t He?” was my reply.
Kids don’t trust you
I was able to express honor and gratitude to the police force. I don’t think anyone would want their job, and many of them do great work. “I honor you and respect you. However,” I said, “my wife and I help with several kids groups throughout the week, and not one of our kids trust you. When they see you, they want to run the other way. It’s great that reading programs and other trainings are being done. They should continue. But, what can be done specifically to restore trust in our community?”
There was talk of break downs in family, joblessness, incarceration rates, racism, white privilege, gun crack downs, and much more. The problem of safety and violence is a big one, and does encompass all these issues. On the one hand, our police force has an insanely difficult job. I would not want to do what they do. On the other hand, our community has been hurt and is reaching for ways to express their pain.
Is there a pathway to peace?
I am naive enough to believe that prayer matters.
James 5 The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective
2 Cor 10 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4aWe use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
I’m hopeful to see the Body of Christ rise to meet this challenge. Can we be the ministers of reconciliation? Can our prayers change our city? I believe the stage is being set for the finest hour of Christ’s church, where we can rise in the Power of Faith, Hope and Love. It will take a Church that is Holy, set apart for the purposes of God and separated from the ways of this world. It will take a Body that is wholly surrendered to the will of its’ master, Jesus Christ.
As we submit to God’s will and authority in our lives, in the place of prayer, in the place of humility, in the place of unity; we will see walls of hostility break down and Justice will roll on like a mighty river.
My purpose in posting these type of things is:
- To give you insight into our community. It’s my perspective, and I hope I’m not being overly biased one way or another. I’m trying to say what I see.
- I do see cops working hard and being respectful. I also see cops working hard, but treating people like animals in the process, even calling them animals or saying things like “only animals would live in a sh@t hole like this!”
- To ask you to pray and act. Is there something God is placing on your heart to address injustice in your neighborhood? What missions would He have you fund?Where is your voice (and the voice of Christ speaking through you) being heard?
I really feel it’s not enough for us to say we are Christians or that we believe in Jesus. Faith without works is dead. We are here on this earth at this time on purpose. What purpose does God have for you where you are at?
Amos 5 I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Please pray with me for my city; particularly as the weather gets warmer.