Post by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo from Jay Clark.
Over the past several days, Minnesota Public Radio has run two stories on Hmong organizing in NoMi (primarily in Hawthorne). The first explains what I've come to dub "stealth organizing" around common events such as soccer or Halloween parties. Calling people up or showing up at their door out of the blue and organizing them around issues such as housing or public safety can be difficult at best. Throw in language and cultural barriers and the task becomes even more daunting. But when parents and kids are gathering around a soccer game, bringing up community concerns in a casual setting becomes far easier.
One such issue that has been consistently raised is the desire to get a Hmong-speaking police officer on the day shift in the fourth precinct. We know this wouldn't solve every communication difficulty between the Hmong, Hmong-Thai, 911 dispatchers, and the fine officers of our precinct, but it would go a long way towards building a stronger relationship throughout these groups. In this MPR story, a group of kids Jay Clark of CURA calls "The Totally Awesome Girls" talk about their experiences and why such a move is needed in our community.
I've had the distinction of meeting these kids, and they are, as advertised, indeed Totally Awesome.
I have to take issue with one thing that the police spokesperson Jesse Garcia said, that they cannot assign officers based on race. That's not what the Hmong in the fourth precinct are asking. They are asking that officers be assigned based on an intersection of the precinct's needs and the officers' abilities. From another community meeting, we know that the police officers' union contract explicitly allows for such assignments.
Conversely, putting one (or even several) Hmong officers on the day shift is not going to be some kind of magical elixir that will resolve all facets of this sometimes thorny issue. The MPD rightly has their own criteria used to determine which officers respond to what calls and how quickly. And Hmong and other Southeast Asian residents must also become more comfortable calling in to 911 and 311. I hope that I can be a part of bridging this gap, either with my individual efforts or through my work with the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council.