Area youth take notes from Minneapolis cops

Officers hosted a citizen’s academy to explain their role to youths and to learn about the community.

Kowsar Abdi, left, and Muna Ali, right, are students of the Minneapolis Police Department Somali Youth Citizens’ Academy. The police held a citizens’ academy to explain how they do their job and learn more about the community.

Anthony Kwan

Kowsar Abdi, left, and Muna Ali, right, are students of the Minneapolis Police Department Somali Youth Citizens’ Academy. The police held a citizens’ academy to explain how they do their job and learn more about the community.

Luke Feuerherm

Ali Salen and his classmates were just a couple rooms away when the call came into dispatch, alerting Minneapolis police that two men had been shot outside of the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.
It was an interesting first day of class.
That was in January, and Salen and 11 fellow East African students had just begun the inaugural Minneapolis Police Department Somali Youth CitizensâÄô Academy. On Friday, back at the Brian Coyle Center, graduates presented what they learned in their 10 weeks of training.
âÄúPolice arenâÄôt bad people,âÄù said Salen, 14, who wants to be a police officer when he grows up. âÄúWe just didnâÄôt have a good image of them. Older people were always saying they were bad.âÄù
Community organizer Abdirahman Mukhtar and Minneapolis police arranged the course to give East African youth a better idea of how cops operate âÄî and vice versa.
âÄúWe wanted a mutual understanding,âÄù Mukhtar said. âÄúWe wanted to show the youth that the police are doing a great job and show the police that there are good law-abiding citizens here.âÄù
Crime prevention specialist Renée Allen designed the course and has put on a similar program in north Minneapolis to help combat youth violence and racial tension in the neighborhoods.
The students toured the 911 center, jail and court rooms and got to meet judges, lawyers, forensic scientists and a member of the FBI.
In order to graduate, students had to participate in a certain number of three-hour after-school classes or make up absences by completing additional projects, course instructor Kristin Quinn said. Of the 12 students, 11 passed the course, which counted for credit at school.
âÄúThe credit was a good incentive,âÄù Quinn said. âÄúBut a lot of them werenâÄôt doing it for the grade.âÄù
All the students had their own favorite parts of the course, but all four students, who presented what theyâÄôd learned on Friday, described a better understanding of the force levels used by police.
Prior to the course, many didnâÄôt comprehend why a cop would shoot a man who was armed with a knife or force someone to the ground.
After learning the different levels of force that police use to maintain order, however, the students said they better understand why cops act the way they do, and the students are now ready to help in times of crisis or panic.
âÄúKids donâÄôt know how to communicate with police,âÄù said Kowsar Abdi, 14. âÄúPolice are not always bad. ItâÄôs not always bad to help police.âÄù
After going through the course, students said they have a very different view of police work and some plan on becoming police officers, forensic scientists or judges, said Officer Jeanine Brudenell, who works in the neighborhood and helped teach the course.
The next Somali Youth CitizensâÄô Academy is planned for this fall.
At the Brian Coyle Center on Friday, some of the students screened a video they produced, showing an example of the type of simulations taught in the course.
In the video, students who witness a crime call police and provide an accurate description of the suspect, while others work to calm hysterical community members.
Of the video, Brudenell said, âÄúYou can see the things that stuck in their mind.âÄù