Saturday, September 3, 2011

North Minneapolis Hmong Families Celebrate New Hmong Police Officer

Quoted text and photo by Jay Clark, reprinted with permission.  Remainder of post by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

The following text was posted to the Minneapolis Issues Forum by Jay Clark, organizer at CURA:

On August 31, 25 North Minneapolis Hmong soccer players came to Dessert with Don Samuels to meet and celebrate their new 4th precinct outreach officer. Kou Vang,

You can see a picture at: http://flic.kr/p/aiyo6z
 (more after the jump)

For three years, North Minneapolis Hmong families have been campaigning for a day Hmong officer in the 4th precinct. They have organized 100 person meetings with councilmembers Samuels, Hofstede, and Johnson: gone downtown and made their case to Chief Dolan: and collected 1000 postcards for a Hmong officer and dropped them in Mayor Rybak’s lap.

Although nearly 75% of all Minneapolis Hmong live in North Minneapolis, there were no 4th precinct day Hmong officers before the arrival of Kou Vang. Hmong families believe that it is essential to have Hmong officers because many elderly Hmong as well as many families who have recently arrived in America speak limited English.. They say a Hmong speaking officer can overcome the language barrier and build communication, cooperation and trust between the MPD and the Hmong community. Many Hmong have also said that they feel more comfortable speaking with an officer who knows Hmong culture.

Officer Vang will be meeting with the Henry High Asian club this week, and over the next few weeks he will be visiting schools, soccer games, businesses, and homes.

I also want to give a thumbs-up to our elected officials on this issue.  The Hmong put together two 100 person meetings, attended by councilmembers Samuels, Hofstede, and Johnson. Most of the people in those meetings cannot not vote because they are not citizens or are too young.

Councilmembers Samuels and Hofstede, and Mayor Rybak, then had meetings with small groups of Hmong students and listened and asked lots of questions as the students explained in detail the challenges their families face with the police, language, and crime.

The elected officials then went and communicated the challenges and the needs of the Hmong families to chief Dolan and others inside the Minneapolis Police department. They helped get a meeting between Hmong families and chief Dolan.

The Hmong tend to be very reserved and will often stay silent about problems they have. In these small meetings both councilmembers Samuels and Hofstede showed a special gift for getting the Hmong students to open up and talk about the challenges facing their families.

I see politicians so often severely critiqued for the jobs they do. And more often than I like to admit I am adding to that chorus.

But these elected officials went the extra mile to listen to and understand this invisible group, and then nudged an all-too-often impersonal government system to respond and meet their needs. The Hmong are celebrating today because of the involvement of these elected officials.
(end quoted text from Jay Clark)

I also want to add that once the lack of communication between many Hmong families and our police department was identified, CURA came to the Hawthorne neighborhood and asked if we would support a study about where in Minneapolis and St. Paul Hmong police officers were deployed in relation to where Hmong residents lived.  After that report and our first meeting where Hmong families filled Farview Park, we were told that getting this position filled would be impossible.

But impossible doesn't mean the same thing inside NoMi as it does elsewhere.  We as a community have been told it would be impossible to get rid of drug dealers, impossible to drop violent crime in the EcoVillage by over 90%, impossible to market homes to new, good homeowners, impossible to save people from foreclosure, impossible to save buildings from demolition, impossible to rebound after a tornado.  The list goes on and on, and yet we persevere and succeed.

Thanks to all who made the impossible yet another community success story, and Officer Vang, welcome to the neighborhood!

4 comments:

  1. It's about time that the Hmong received another police officer to represent the growing population in NOMI and ensure their needs are being met. Is there any way to ensure that this particular officer is dispatched with priority to ensure that there is no language barrier when interfacing with police?

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  2. Anon 9:42, not quite. We were told at previous meetings that the officer will have to respond to calls in the same level of priority as any other officer. Presumably if there is a higher-priority call he is responding to, he wouldn't be pulled from that if a Hmong person needed assistance. There is already a translation service available for that.

    When all things are relatively equal, then one would hope that the MPD bases responses at least in part on the language of the caller.

    Even so, this is a great step forward and should do a lot to strengthen the relationship between the 4th Precinct MPD and the Hmong community in NoMi. At the last public meeting, Lt. Lindback was off his game in terms of how he presented himself. But he did have a lot of good ideas about how to engage the Hmong community here. Hopefully now we can start on some of those initiatives.

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  3. So if its random that this new officer respond what is the point? Why not just train officers in the Hmong language?

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  4. Even if it's random, (please note correct form of the contraction for "it is") the Hmong officer will still be making contact with the Hmong citizens.

    Wow, Jay Clark at CURA worked a long time to make this happen. He set his mind to it, put his shoulder to the wheel, and made it happen. I am excited to see what project Jay Clark announces next, because I know he can make it happen.

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