Jordan One Year Later: What's Different, What's the Same

A City Pages Roundtable

Tim Dolan: One of the things we do is take photographs of people together. If you are wearing a jersey with the number 22 on it, as we take your photograph when you are with your buddies, you are less likely to be involved in a shooting wearing that number 22, knowing that officers know what you are wearing that night. So those photographs--and we don't make them public--are a very effective gang suppression tool that my uniformed officers will use when we are working with gang issues.

City Pages: Are the police their own worst enemy sometimes? Shane, when you were out on the streets during the melee, you encountered a lot of African American anger against the police department. Yet when I talked to council member Samuels, he said he has been calling John Delmonico, the head of the police union, since March in an effort to work on common strategies. And Delmonico won't even return his calls.

Oates: When I go into African Americans' homes to recruit for the Jordan Area Community Council, they will start in that the police are doing everything under the sun. And I say, "Well, when was your last incident with the police?" And they say, "Um, my cousin had that incident." "Oh, okay. How long ago?" "Well, two years ago." When you start to dig into what the real deal is, it is not that they necessarily have had some bad personal experience with the police, but it is this sort of cultural history about the police that comes forward, and they internalize it as their own experience.

Natalie Johnson Lee: With all due respect, I have a completely different take on that, because I get a lot of the police brutality calls in my office. And the number one complaint that I get, and how most of the incidents get out of hand, is the way in which the police officers address the folks. Sometimes it is just a matter of answering a question [politely].

But one of the things you asked is, what has changed? At the council level, what happens now, Jordan is the number one example that comes up in [anti-crime] conversations. It used to be Phillips. It becomes very important to capitalize on that attention and do some policy work to begin to change some of the stuff in Jordan. But the challenge in these inner city communities, especially in north Minneapolis, because Don and myself are elected officials of color, is, we get pulled away a lot from doing policy work. Because we are responding. Don can't do policy work and a vigil. There is an interesting kind of balancing.

City Pages: Do you have the institutional support from City Hall to get done the kinds of things you would like to get done in Jordan and other communities?

Dolan: The silver lining here is that Jordan is getting a lot of attention now. If you look at gang violence in the city of Minneapolis, it is not African Americans this year; it hasn't been about African Americans. It is about Hispanics. And they are still killing each other and they are shooting today. That's not really getting addressed very much. But we'll take advantage of the situation as long as we've got the limelight.

Gross: Since the incident in Jordan, our group and a lot of other organizations tried to bring in federal mediation [to deal with police-community tensions]. And in my mind, there was tremendous pressure brought down from City Hall to maintain the status quo. We ended up being very frustrated and walking away from the table. We are still in the neighborhood all the time, taking complaints directly from people. It's not like we are talking about your aunt or cousin or mother got into this hassle long before or something. And a lot of the people we deal with feel very trapped--between people who are selling drugs and involved in criminal things, and the police, who are also doing some criminal activities against some of the people in the community, as well as some very good things. I understand this whole thing about people taking photographs at bus stops. But not at 7:45 in the morning when people are standing there in business clothing and briefcases trying to get downtown to their job.

City Pages: In the last few weeks, Don Samuels has chosen symbolism over policy to help draw attention to this. He has gotten 12 state troopers to come into the city, six of them on the north side in Jordan. There is huge distrust of law enforcement in the neighborhood already, and the troopers aren't really enough to remedy the problem. So is this a positive step or not?

Oates: Let me tell you what I have seen. Out in front of the chicken place on Emerson, the state troopers [assisted in] a big narcotics bust. This is the first time I've seen this. The street was cleaned down, people were off the street, folks who were taking the bus were taking the bus. And the next day, when it cooled down, the same guys were out there doing what they had been doing. Now, I'm a conservative, I will confess that. I know there's going to be some police brutality, and I know what police do, they are human beings and they're not social workers and the whole thing. But, I'll tell you, I'd rather have this, a little bit of mistakes, than have the criminal element, who have no regard for my rights or anybody else's rights. The kids come up to me and say, "I got some crack cocaine." And they don't know if I'm a cop or anything. They just don't care. So I think they are more of a threat to me than the police. So I don't worry about dealing with the police coming up to me and saying, "Mister, can I please see your driver's license?"

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