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

A City Pages Roundtable

Dolan: The culture has changed. Predominantly the complaints we get today on police is how they treated me and what they said. Thirty years ago it was they broke my leg, they busted my head, they threw me in the hospital. That aspect has changed. Most cops today are educated. Most all of them have four-year degrees or more. And citizens in general are more educated. And there has been a lot of progress. In Jordan, a majority of what we see out there, on a day-to-day, is very good. We're talking about the recent incident where a one-year-old was shot. Citizens came forward because they were confident to come out and talk about what they saw. That wouldn't have happened last year.

City Pages: How many of the people causing trouble are neighborhood residents, and how many are people who have come in from outside?

Dolan: My top ten for the north side, half of them live in Brooklyn Center. They may have been from the city originally, but they reside in Brooklyn Center. And a lot of our buyers are coming in from the suburbs. So yeah, it is a metro area issue, not just a north side issue.

City Pages: You hear all this Chicago and Gary talk about dealers. Is that overblown?

Dolan: No, it's not. It is a problem here every summer because every summer we get an influx of people here from there. And when it gets cold, a lot of them decide to go somewhere else.

Gross: Another one of the complaints that we get, and I call it the flip side of police brutality, is not enough police officers--withholding resources from certain areas and creating sort of crime containment areas where it is okay for people to do some stuff because it keeps them out of Kenwood and the other nicey, whitey neighborhoods. It sounds like you know who the problem people are. Is it a matter of going in and cleaning up the people you have pretty much identified? Will that solve it?

Dolan: We are no longer able to "clean up." My precinct makes about 400 arrests a week. Arrests aren't the answer. It takes a whole gamut of things that have to be done to clean up a corner. The laws have changed. It has become very complicated for the guys in blue out there.

Gross: But people tell us that they stand out there and document things. And you say your group has done it, other people have said they take pictures. What is the problem with just going out and arresting those people?

Dolan: It doesn't give me probable cause and it doesn't even give me reasonable suspicion. We don't know what's in those bags that they are selling; we don't know what is in those hand-to-hand transactions. It doesn't carry any water anymore. Thirty years ago it did.

City Pages: But it almost seems with a lot of these guys a rap sheet is a point of pride now. It is not even a deterrent to arrest these people.

Dolan: Unfortunately all it takes is one felony arrest to make you a second-class citizen in this country. Once you've made that step...

Oates: We should talk about expungement [of one's criminal record] in certain instances. It is a form of slavery. Because once you have a felony, you're done.

City Pages: You can't vote. You have trouble finding a place to rent.

Johnson Lee: I was in a meeting last week and we were talking about re-entry, about the influx of all these people who are coming out of prisons. I want to create something called the No Entry Project. All these individuals were once young. We need to start catching them before they turn that curve. And in brainstorming, we thought about there might be a way to get some of our athletes connected. We get a lot of these major sports figures, who grew up in the projects. And you know what? They take them to the suburbs. The suburban people have the marketing folks create most of their opportunities out in the suburbs to deal with the suburban kids, and our kids get minimal or very little access to them. We've even gotten to the point where we have said, "We don't need any of your money; just come and read to the kids. Hang out with them." We need something like a No Entry Project, so we can start dealing with things at the root.

Dolan: Well, we don't get a lot of attention on the north side. One of the things that has changed is, we have it now. It is something we need to take advantage of.

Johnson Lee: Yes. And capitalize on it.

Don Samuels on the Struggles of Jordan

No politician in local memory has been as closely identified with a single neighborhood as Don Samuels is with Jordan on Minneapolis's north side. Samuels's grassroots activism before and after last summer's melee in Jordan helped propel him to an upset victory over DFL-endorsee Olin Moore in the 3rd Ward City Council race last February. And after a series of shootings in the neighborhood last month, Samuels announced a high-profile fast and round-the-clock vigil (at a tent pitched in Jordan's community gardens) to protest the lack of resources required to combat violence in his community. The tactic prompted Governor Pawlenty to assign a dozen state patrol officers to work with Minneapolis police throughout the city over the next few weeks, further raising Samuels's profile and lending additional credence to his pull as a voice for the beleaguered neighborhood where he has lived for six years.

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