Sparking Conversation to Create Meaningful Change in Minneapolis
By Audel Shokohzadeh
Community Engagement Director, Minnesota Department of Human Rights
Since launching the investigation in June 2020, engaging with community has always been a priority for us at the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. That’s why within minutes of announcing the findings from our investigation into the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and Minnesota Justice Research Center began to engage in deep conversation with community about what can be done to meaningful address race-based policing that is undermining public safety in Minneapolis.
As of June 18, we have had 45 one-on-one and small group conversations with folks most directly impacted by police violence and the criminal justice system, community leaders, faith leaders, philanthropy, business leaders, and so many more.
These conversations and presentations focused on education around the facts in our findings and how we are seeking to negotiate a court-enforceable agreement tool to bring about organizational cultural change within the Minneapolis Police Department.
I am grateful to all of those that have connected with us, and I also know there is more conversation and engagement we need to have with community. Thoughtful and meaningful community engagement is a cornerstone of a court-enforceable agreement. It will ensure that the tool we create to address race-based policing in Minneapolis is a powerful one and strengthens public safety.
That is why earlier this year, we sought experts to partner with to continue our community engagement work. The Minnesota Justice Research Center is exactly the partner we were seeking. The folks at the MNJRC possess deep relationships throughout Minneapolis. They are a Black-led community organization dedicated to transforming the criminal legal system. The MNJRC has led efforts to prohibit police officers from associating with white supremacists and recently released a report on how licensure can be a tool for police accountability. They are dedicated to using research, education, and policy development to equip communities with what they need to bring the criminal legal system into stronger alignment with commonly held values by centering voices closest to the issues.
The MNJRC is bringing its expertise and strategic approach to this work to facilitate community engagement sessions this summer that can guide the efforts to craft and negotiate a court-enforceable agreement between MDHR and the City of Minneapolis.
Minneapolis has a tremendous opportunity to honor the decades of work and lived experiences from the community, especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities, to address race-based policing that is undermining public safety. I hope you can join us in one of these sessions to ensure our community engagement sessions truly reflect community priorities and values.
To learn more, visit mnjrc.org/events.