Connecting police officers to our communities

Too often police are seen as something to be feared. We must communicate.

In a recent opinion piece “Are the lights out and is the music over for partying students?” John Hoff asked me, “If you were elected, how would you expect police to act toward students having parties?”

I would (and do) expect them to treat students with the same respect and professionalism due every other Minneapolis resident or visitor to our city.

Too often police are seen as something to be feared, disrespected and not trusted. It is time to turn that around.

Don’t get me wrong. There ought to be standards of behavior for everyone – students and police alike. Police, residents, students and University staff ought to know and understand that socializing and partying are long-standing and legitimate aspects of community life. At the same time there are basic and legal standards for behavior to which there is agreement. Underage drinking, excessive noise and, even potentially more serious, driving while intoxicated all violate certain standards and laws. When an individual or group acts contrary to those standards, there should be reasonable, agreed-upon consequences, administered in a fair, respectful way through our legal system.

At the same time we must have standards for police behavior. Use of excessive force, unlawful search and police brutality all violate such standards. Yet, too often, residents are unclear of what is appropriate police behavior and feel that they have had no role in crafting those standards or seeing that they are upheld. And even when there are clear violations, police officers are often not held accountable.

To help address this we need good recruitment and training of officers, a community-centered approach to policing and more effective civilian oversight, with real power to hold police officers accountable when they deviate from appropriate and legal behavior. I will fight for all of these in City Hall. Unlike my opponent, I am not endorsed by the Police Federation of Minneapolis. I will be a strong, independent voice for students and all the residents of the 2nd Ward.

In general the police department in Minneapolis is too often disconnected from the communities it is supposed to serve. I will push for more responsive, community-centered policing, in which residents can direct the police force to where we see the greatest crime problems. I will push for more community crime prevention specialists and community organizers to help work with students to target police resources where they will be the most effective. This is particularly important in the University area ,where the most frequent victims of crime are 18- to 22-year-olds.

One of the more helpful things we can do now is get police, students, other residents, business owners and public officials talking and working together to address crime, safety and liability concerns. Let’s admit it: Lack of trust and lack of respect can go both ways. To get anywhere we need to have all the stakeholders sitting at the table as equal partners in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

There should definitely be a forum for students to communicate the problems they see (like bike theft) to the police department and give their ideas for solving the problem (like a theft sting). And the police – and city, and the Ward 2 City Council member – should listen and direct their efforts accordingly. (And let’s get the public works department to the table too, to explore just what we can do about those parking meters.)

For students who wonder about their legal rights, risks and expectations about house parties, the University Student Legal Service provides some sound advice. You might want to check it out: (612) 624-1001 or

Cam Gordon is the Green Party candidate for Ward 2 in Minneapolis. Please send comments to [email protected].