Moving Barriers and Building Trust

Guest Blogger: Director Todd Miller, Mankato Department of Public Safety, Mankato, Minnesota

Building trust with a community is easier when the police agency is representative of the citizens they serve, but it also requires that officers get out of their squad cars and spend time in direct contact with citizens.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “People don’t get along because they fear each other. People fear each other because they don’t know each other. People don’t know each other because they haven’t properly communicated with each other.”

At the Mankato Department of Public Safety, each officer is assigned a neighborhood or area of responsibility and his duty is to get to know the citizens, build trust, and work together to address neighborhood problems. The department’s mission statement reads “Leading the Way… Making a Difference.” Officers are free to do most anything in their assigned areas as long as it meets the mission.

Here is a link to a story about how Mankato’s first Somali officer is achieving that mission: http://www.mankatofreepress.com/news/local_news/somali-police-officer-moving-barriers-improving-community/article_6993634e-cf23-11e4-98d4-1f08eb8bc7a6.html.

Officer Mohamed’s neighborhood consists of many residents of the immigrant community, but it is not exclusively so, and he, like all Mankato officers, works with each resident, no matter race, gender, or culture. Mankato doesn’t believe that it takes a Somali officer to work with Somali residents, any more than it takes a female officer to work with female residents. In fact, Mankato has an Arab officer mentoring to mostly white children in a charter school, a white officer running a fishing program for Somali and Sudanese children, and a white female officer working with parenting classes for new immigrants.

Mankato recruits for diversity, but hires for character, and holds staff accountable with high expectations. The Department of Public Safety partners with citizens, along with the other departments of the city, through their community governance philosophy, which is a community-wide advancement of community policing. The department builds trust, solves problems, and makes a rapidly growing, diverse community, as safe as possible for all. Having the agency named as a winner of the 2013 IACP and Cisco Community Policing Award, and having a member of the management staff recently named as the YWCA Woman of Distinction for outreach work within the immigrant community that eliminates racism while promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, shows that the staff of the Mankato Department of Public Safety is truly “Leading the Way… Making a Difference.”

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