MPD to recruit more diverse officers

Mayor Betsy Hodges’ proposed budget allows to add 10 new officers to the Minneapolis police force next year.

by Ethan Nelson

As the Minneapolis Police Department increases efforts to diversify its force, University of Minnesota police say this is a measure they already try to employ.

MPD is looking to hire a more diverse police force this year, and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges’ proposed budget allows for 10 new police officers. Although some experts and City Council members support the department’s push to diversify, others aren’t sure it will be enough to build the community’s trust with law enforcement.

University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said MPD is larger and hires more officers, but UMPD still tries to hire diverse groups of officers when it has available positions.

“We do our best to spread the word about our openings in various communities,” he said.

UMPD officers also undergo diversity training to help them relate to people who have different backgrounds, Miner said.

Still, some experts say boosting diversity efforts aren’t always enough to solve problems with the public’s trust.

“Diversity alone doesn’t change a lot,” said Doug Hartmann, a University sociologist who specializes in studies on race and society.

Hartmann said he advocates for more community-based policing and partnerships between police departments and other entities, like neighborhood groups and advocacy organizations.

“It’s not just getting people that look like you. It’s getting people from your community or from a similar community,” said Joshua Page, an associate sociology professor who specializes in crime.

People put more trust in police officers who can relate to the public they serve, said Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents parts of the University area.

He said he advocates for more officers who were born in Minneapolis to help MPD better respond to neighborhood concerns.

“It’ll inspire confidence in residents,” he said.

Besides the 10 additional officers, Hodges’ budget proposal calls for an additional $1 million each year for the community service officer program. These officers, who must pursue a degree in law enforcement, often join MPD’s ranks, she said in the statement, and they are often people of color.

Gordon said it might be difficult to attract people to take a police officer position, though advertising the openings in many different communities can help remedy that.

“We need an entire workforce that really reflects the makeup of our city,” he said.

Hartmann described the push for more diversity as a step in the right direction, but he stressed that more needs to be done.

“Americans tend to be optimistic about diversity,” he said. “We can get lulled into complacency when there’s diversity but nothing else changes.”

In the future, Gordon said he’s interested in examining who gets stopped for low-level crimes in Minneapolis, like spitting on the sidewalk and lurking with intent.

“From what I’ve seen already, Native American and black males get charged more than others,” he said.

In 2008, Gordon proposed an ordinance that would repeal lurking with intent as a crime, and reclassify lurking as the less severe loitering. The ordinance was not approved.

Going forward, Page said, MPD should work on building relationships with the community.

“[Diversity] is very much a good thing,” Page said. “But if your goal is to build trust and build relationships and you bring in people who do things as you’ve always done them, then that’s going to be hard to do.”