Northsiders talk trauma with police

Deputy Chief Art Knight talks with Rory Lucas (right) at the Minneapolis Urban League.
Deputy Chief Art Knight talks with Rory Lucas (right) at the Minneapolis Urban League.

Policing was only part of the conversation at a Northside meeting July 10 at the Minneapolis Urban League.

“I don’t need more cops. … I need jobs, I need housing, I need employment opportunities,” said Deputy Chief Art Knight.

He said he planned to attend the meeting months before police shot and killed Thurman Junior Blevins, which he called a tragedy any way you look at it.

Community activist Al Flowers urged people to hug a woman in the audience related to Blevins.

“We are also grieving,” said Minneapolis Urban League President Steven Belton. He said the community is still reeling from the deaths of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile. But the idea that black people don’t value police is a false narrative, he said.

“We need policing, we just want it to be fair, we want it to be reflective, we want it to be procedurally just,” he said. “And we want policing to reflect the community that it is serving.”

Knight said his top criteria in hiring is fluency in a second language and a Minneapolis residence or a Minneapolis high school diploma. He said the department has historically done a horrible job of hiring minorities.

Flowers asked for community ideas on how to move forward, and said they should get behind Knight and Chief Medaria Arradondo.

“If we’re ever going to see change as an African American community, it’s going to come under them,” he said. “I believe that, that we can make change.”

Other groups spoke as well. The City of Lakes Community Land Trust called for public investments in affordable housing, anticipating that Northside land values will jump in the coming years. And staff from ReCAST Minneapolis talked about their trauma training and grant opportunities.

One meeting attendee said he’s tired of hearing police described as heroes on the job.

Joseph Banks, a candidate for Hennepin County Sheriff, said police should get out of their cars and meet more people.

Police often don’t have a stake in the communities they serve, said Sharif Willis.

Meeting attendee Rory Lucas said he fears for his nine-year-old grandson.

“I don’t have a relationship with the police. … I remember when they shot Tycel Nelson,” he said, referring to the 17-year-old police shot and killed in 1990. “So I quit coming to these meetings. … But now my grandson is here, so I’m back.”

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