THE POLICE AND BLACK MEN PROJECT
Goal: to forge connections between police officers and African American men that can lead to better partnerships for community safety and law enforcement.
- The project evolved out of conversations after high-profile police shootings of Black men in 2015-16. It involves five Minneapolis police officers (three White and two Black) and six Black men from the community. The group is facilitated by Bill Doherty of the University of Minnesota.
- The Minneapolis Police Department approved the project. All group members come as individuals speaking for themselves and not as representatives of an organization. Beginning in January 2017, they agreed to meet every other week fora year or more to build relationships based on honest communication, and then decide on action steps. Meeting places alternate between a community setting and a police setting.
- The first set of meetings focused on relationship building: storytelling to understand one another’s backgrounds and experiences. Over time the group got into more and more difficult conversation including negative personal experiences, the history of policing in Black communities, sources of current mistrust, and different perspectives on recent police-involved shootings. The group kept returning to the table, forming close personal bonds, coming to understand each other’s perspectives, and evolving a common vision for change.
- The group then turned to crafting public narrative statement. The narrative consists of: 1) an analysis of the problem of police and community distrust, 2) an articulation of what we value and believe in common, 3) a common vision for the future, and 4) specific ways we will work together for change. A key focus is on creating partnerships for community safety.
- After meeting outside of public visibility, the group launched its action phase in September 2018 after receiving support from the Chief.
- Action steps thus far have focused on community conversations and advocating for better housing as a public safety issue. A next step is involvement in police training.
Participants: Community group members are Guy Bowling, Brantley Johnson, Justin Terrell, Michael Walker, Damian Winfield, and Corey Yeager. Police members are Charlie Adams, Jon Edwards, Dave O’Connor, Steve Sporny, and George Warzinik. The process facilitator is Bill Doherty (email@example.com) of the University of Minnesota.