“I Am From” A Tribute to Humanity by Urban Scholar SeAnna Johnson



2016 Minneapolis Urban Scholars Cohort 

If you were not able to attend the Urban Scholars Recognition Ceremony last week, you missed a treat. It was a celebration of everything good about the program. I so enjoyed the spoken word offerings from the Scholars, that I want to share one of them.

I’d like you to bask in the words of Urban Scholar SeAnna Johnson. SeAnna recited this poem at the Urban Scholar recognition ceremony, and has graciously allowed me to share it with others.

Seanna introduces her poem this way:

This piece is written to remind the world that where we are from is far beyond the physical location of where we are born….

“I Am From”
By SeAnna Rochelle Johnson
I am from Eden, the beautiful land of would-be paradise, where life was first breathed into me and the dust was divine.
I am from Jerusalem of Israel, having bore witness to a ransomer’s deed that can never fade or tarnish, and we drifted west in our forgiveness.
I am from Candace, Amina, Nzingha, Makeda, and Yaa Asantewa; the infinite queen within traced all the way back to the fortress of Elmina where the foot prints last remained sacred.
I am from late nights and early mornings of struggle & strife, blood, sweat, and tears; oh but how I got over, walking, talking, & marching up to freedom land.
I am from afros and pressing combs, ruffle socks and derby hats on Easter Sundays.
I am from “Yes ma’am, no ma’am”, “Yes sir, no sir”.
I am from Blues City; The Birthplace of Rock n’ Roll that rang a Southern Belle and the soundwaves generated one cold, melodious Minnesota Maiden; from the frozen tundra in January to a hot greasy griddle in the middle of July.
I am from First Ave Minneapolis, where it Purple Rains from Graffiti Bridge to Lake Minnetonka, the Beautiful Experience where everyone has lived the Glamorous Life and fallen victim to a Jungle Love at least once. The city where If You Love Me, you’d quit Breakin’ My Heart with those Pretty Brown Eyes, but if you know what’s best, you also wouldn’t dance Too Close.
I am from the new millennium’s end: Y2K, 2012, and Harold Camping’s “rapture”, and like Destiny’s Child, I’m a survivor.
I am from the world of all battles: Backstreet Boys vs. N’Sync, Lil Bow Wow vs. Lil Romeo, The Rock vs. Stone Cold, Dirty Dan vs Pinhead Larry, Edward vs. Jacob, and Kanye vs….Everybody.
I am from cartoon-cartoons, skippin’ & boppin’ it on a Saturday afternoon, and neighborhood tag by evening.
And when it comes time for rest, I am from cold iced tea, sugar sweet grits, sausage and gravy, and hot water cornbread at the dawn of the Gospel.
I am from Grandma’s downhome Sunday Dinner and pre-grub prayer, where Mahalia reminded us of the King on Calvary, and the food even tasted blessed.
I am from the Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Blind Boys of Alabama, wading through the storm in Amazing Grace.
I am from the everloving sprinkles on what could simply be a scoop of struggle; but like the Sounds of Blackness I’m optimistic, that regardless of the beginning there’s a happy ending.

Have a good weekend everyone,

Velma Korbel, Director Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights

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PCOC Meeting Snapshot: August Edition

OPCR Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick presents the Complaint Filing Experience Study to the Commission.

OPCR Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick presents the Complaint Filing Experience Study to the Commission.

The PCOC held its monthly meeting on August 09, 2016. Highlights included a presentation of the Compliant Filing Experience Study, discussion of a Commission sponsored Peace Forum, Committee updates and case review.

OPCR Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick presented the Complaint Filing Experience Research and Study to the Commission. See the study here and his presentation here. The study looked at the various sources by which complaints of police misconduct may be filed, reviewed each source to assess and ensure complaints reached the OPCR, and recommended improvements to ensure all complainants have access to the process. The study uncovered many concerns, including issues filing in-person complaints at police precincts. The Study reports that in 15 attempts to file complaints at precincts, only 2 were successful and a complaint actually filed. The study also highlighted the inability of complaints to be filed exclusively over the phone, since a complaint requires the complainant’s signature. Recommendations included ensuring all precincts have complaint forms, training officers and city phone operators on the complaint process, and changing the location of the OPCR and MPD Internal Affairs offices to one that is not so close to the MPD administration, and therefore not as potentially intimidating to those wishing to file misconduct complaints against MPD officers. Commissioners brought and passed a motion to adopt the study.

During the Outreach Committee Report, provided by Committee Chair Westphal, both Commission Westphal and Cerrillo discussed a Peace Forum they would like the Commission to sponsor. The Forum would provide a space for civilians and MPD officers to engage in a meaningful discussion on issues that matter to them. Logistics for such an event are still being determined and Commissioners passed a motion to continue working out those logistics and report back at the next monthly meeting. See the Outreach Committee Chair Report here.

The Policy and Procedure Committee continues to work toward building an effective work group on mental health and policing, and on the implementation of a co-responder pilot program for the MPD. Commissioner Foroozan presented his work as a part of that Committee to develop a framework for performance reviews for the Chief of Police, a process that he discussed could include after-action reports, looking at how the MPD responds to PCOC policy and practice recommendations. See the Policy and Procedure Committee Chair Report here.

The Audit Committee continues to look in to risk assessment of the MPD. The Committee is considering identifying certain departmental practices and collecting regular data in these areas that could be published in quarterly reports made to the whole commission.

The meeting concluded with case review where Commissioners discussed case summaries 1, 3, and 10. Commissioners then selected cases to be converted to summaries for next month’s meeting from the August case synopses. Commissioners selected cases 3, 5 and 7. The next monthly meeting is scheduled for September 13, 2016.

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How the Recent Supreme Court Decision in Utah v. Strieff Could Affect Citizen Interactions with Police

The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo Credit- Architect of the Capitol.

The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo Credit- Architect of the Capitol.

On June 20, 2016, in the case of Utah v. Strieff, the United States Supreme Court made a decision which could change civilian rights during police stops. The Court looked at the 4th Amendment, citizen’s protection from unreasonable searches or seizures. A search or seizure can be unreasonable if an officer conducts it with no reason to believe that the person is involved in criminal activity. For decades, if a search or seizure was found to be unreasonable and therefore in violation of the 4th Amendment, any evidence uncovered from the search or seizure could not be used at court. However, with this recent court decision, that standard is changing.

In the facts of this case, Officer Fackrell witnessed the Defendant, Edward Strieff, leave a residence loosely suspected of drug activity. Shortly afterwards, Officer Fackrell detained Strieff, without any reasonable belief of his involvement in criminal activity, and looked over Strieff’s identification. Officer Fackrell then discovered Strieff had an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic violation, and proceeded to arrest Strieff. When, as a part of the arrest, Officer Fackrell searched Strieff, he discovered evidence of drugs. Strieff asked the court to exclude this evidence since it was discovered during the unreasonable stop.

The Supreme Court determined that the evidence in Strieff’s case could be used, and applied an exception called the “attenuation doctrine”, which allows the court to look at three factors to determine whether or not the evidence can be used. These factors are: 1) how close in time the search and stop are; 2) intervening circumstances; and 3) the “purpose” and “flagrancy” (glaring or obviousness) of the police misconduct.

Here, the Court said that Officer Fackrell’s unreasonable stop was interrupted by the discovery of a prior valid arrest warrant, Officer Fackrell was authorized to arrest and search Strieff because of the warrant; and his misconduct was not flagrant because he made “good-faith mistakes.”

The Court’s decision in this case drew harsh criticism, including a strongly worded dissent written by Justice Sotomayor.  In her dissent she states that unlawful stops have severe consequences, and the Court risked treating people as second-class citizens by allowing for such an exception. Justice Sotomayor stated that unreasonable police “stops” corrode our civil liberties. She also highlighted the impact these unreasonable stops would disproportionately have on people of color.

Consequently, the Supreme Court’s decision in this case could have unintended consequences. The Court’s decision grants additional deference to law enforcement across the country to arrest and prosecute civilians, despite finding evidence for their crimes while violating their 4th amendment rights.

To read the full text of the Court’s decision, click here.

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PCOC Meeting Snapshot: July Edition

A slide from the OPCR Q2 2016 report presented to the PCOC.

A slide from the OPCR Q2 2016 report presented to the PCOC.

The PCOC held its monthly meeting on July 12, 2016. Highlights included discussions about recent law enforcement related violence, a research and study looking at the complaint filing experience, a white paper on requiring officer liability insurance, quarterly reports from the Office of Police Conduct Review and MPD’s Internal Affairs Unit, committee updates and case review.

The meeting opened with a discussion of recent police related events, where each Commissioner shared a thought or comment. Commissioner’s remarks included feelings of sadness and frustration, but also a call to maintain the Commission’s emphasis on outreach and community engagement, and the need for the Commission to bridge the gap between police and community members.

OPCR Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick presented a methodology for a research and study looking at the avenues and accessibility of the misconduct complaint filing process. See the methodology here. The Commission showed interest in the project and passed a motion to conduct the study.

Mr. Patrick also discussed the Commission producing a white paper on requiring officer liability insurance, an issue community members presented to the Commission at a previous meeting. This white paper would present a neutral review of the literature currently available on issue, in addition to statements from stakeholders. A motion was passed to complete the project.

OPCR Director Imani Jaafar presented the Office’s Quarterly Report for the second quarter of 2016. Highlights of the report include an increase in complainants, more efficient case processing time and a larger number of cases being sent to investigation. See the presentation here.

Internal Affairs Acting Commander Henry Halvorson presented IA’s Quarterly Report to the Commission as well. See the presentation here. He also presented a project he has been working on to develop leadership in the MPD. His project would include 9-month leadership programs where possible future MPD leaders would meet, review material, and have group discussions surrounding leadership skills and challenges. The Acting Commander is currently working with the MPD Administration on the project and Commissioners voiced their hope that the program proceeds.

Committee Chairs then presented their reports to the Commission. Read the Outreach Committee Report here. Read the Audit Report here. While the Policy and Procedure Committee did not hold its normal monthly meeting in July, Chair Singleton and OPCR’s Ryan Patrick discussed a new project the Committee would like to take on, an effort to revise the MPD’s Policy and Procedure Manual. The project would include actual revision of policy, in addition to reexamining the manual’s numbering system, and revising the MPD Discipline Matrix to ensure it aligns with current policies. A methodology will be presented at the next Policy and Procedure Committee meeting.

Commissioners then discussed the case summaries chosen from the June meeting. They also chose cases from the July case synopses to be converted to case summaries for next month, cases 1, 3, and 10. The next monthly meeting is scheduled for August 9, 2016.

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ADA Anniversary

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Throughout the month of July and on the Anniversary of the ADA, the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights celebrates this landmark event as a way of bringing attention to the important work that has been done to promote equal opportunity for people with disabilities and to highlight the work that is yet to be done.

Today we’d like to call your attention to a little-known civil rights movement called the Section 504 sit-in.


San Francisco Sit-In a Defining Moment in Disability Rights History
from NPR.org: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1142485

Twenty-five years ago, a group of persons with disabilities staged a sit-in at a federal office building in San Francisco.  This sit-in was as important a moment as Selma or the Stonewall uprising.


The group was demanding enforcement of the first major law to bar discrimination against persons with disabilities-known as Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. The law forced hospitals, universities — any place that received federal funding — to remove obstacles to services and provide access to public places and transportation. The protesters believed the law would bring one of the nation’s most isolated and powerless groups into the mainstream. . .

However, complying with the law was often expensive. For nearly four (4) years, the government failed to enforce it.

As a result, Frustrations mounted, and in April 1977, sit-ins were organized across the country. Demonstrators in New York and Washington, D.C., went home after a few days. However, in San Francisco protestors at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW)  remained. One day turned into two, which then turned into three and then some . More than 100 demonstrators stayed in the building for weeks, refusing to leave until the regulations were enforced.

On April 28, nearly four weeks into the sit-in, HEW Secretary Joseph Califano endorsed Section 504. The protesters had won.

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PCOC Meeting Snapshot: June Edition

Intake Investigator Gabriel Ramirez discusses cases with Commissioners.

Intake Investigator Gabriel Ramirez discusses cases with Commissioners.

The PCOC held its monthly meeting on June 14, 2016. Highlights included discussions about the city’s body camera policy, officer liability insurance, and committee updates and case review.

Chief Harteau addressed the Commission to explain the changes made to the second draft of the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) body camera policy. Changes have been made in response to Commission and community concerns. The changes include: the addition of explicit language regarding officer discipline for those who fail to comply with the policy; a stated purpose to use body cameras to promote transparency and community trust; a requirement for officers to document reasons for failing to activate their body camera when required; and mandated periodic supervisor review of officers’ body camera video.

Commissioners expressed their desire for better communication and increased collaboration between the Commission and the Police Chief. The Chief expressed a commitment to improve that communication, stating with a recently established monthly meeting with Chair Brown and Commissioner Singleton. The Chief expressed interest in involvement with the Commission’s community outreach work.

Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUABP) spoke to the Commission about requiring MPD officers to purchase liability insurance as a condition of employment. CUABP president Michelle Gross explained that such insurance would cover officer lawsuits alleging misconduct. Insurance premiums would increase each time the insurance company had to pay a settlement. CUABP advocates that the city pay the insurance base rate while officers pay the premiums. The potential of increased premiums serves as a deterrent and direct consequence for egregious behavior. Officers with multiple settlements would ultimately become uninsurable and unemployable with the force. According to CUABP, this is an ideal outcome.

This is a measure the group has been working towards for years. They have obtained the requisite number of signatures to place the measure on the ballot for during the next election. The city is currently going through the signature verification process. Once verified, the City Council is vested with the decision as to whether the measure will be placed on the ballot. CUABP requested the Commission investigate the insurance topic and discuss their findings at the next PCOC monthly meeting.

Following the presentations, Commissioners gave Committee reports. Both the Outreach Committee and the Policy and Procedure Committee reports can be found here and here respectively. Commissioner Buss discussed the newly established Audit Committee, whose first meeting took place on June 7, 2016. The Committee will have a role in establishing the foundation for future Commission research and studies. Subsequently, the Committee will function in a project-specific way necessitating meetings only four times a year. However, until the Committee is fully established it will meet on the first Tuesday of every

The conclusion of the commission meeting entailed review of May’s case summaries and case synopses which will be converted to case summaries for June’s meeting. Commissioners chose cases 7, 9, 10 from the synopses for that conversion.

The next commission meeting is scheduled for July 11, 2016.

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Urban Scholars begin fifth summer working for City of Minneapolis and Partner Organizations


Minneapolis’ fifth cohort of Urban Scholars began work in 17 different City departments and both the Mayor’s Office and City Council offices, developing leadership skills and learning about careers in government. For the third year in a row Urban Scholars are also working with partner organizations. This year partner organizations include Greater Twin Cities United Way, Hennepin County, the Metropolitan Council, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, Minneapolis Public Schools and the State of Minnesota.

The Urban Scholars program is a full-time leadership and professional development program that includes a paid internship experience and aims to provide undergraduate and graduate students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with a professional employment experience focused on gaining essential leadership skills and creating a resume-building career pathway. The 12-week program runs through Aug. 12.

This year’s 77 Urban Scholars attend colleges across the country and were chosen from more than 500 applicants. The students selected are working in key areas of City government and public policy. In the long run, the City and partnering organizations hope to develop a group of young talent to begin careers in the public and private sectors, who will someday be the next generation of City leaders.

In addition to the work in their various departments and partner organizations, the Urban Scholars participate in the Urban Scholars Leadership Institute each week. Here they receive professional and leadership development training and build communication skills through a specialized Toastmasters curriculum. New this year, the Urban Scholars will develop project management skills by completing small group projects focused on voter outreach and engagement. The purpose is to create an experiential learning environment where skills in leadership, professional development and public speaking can be applied in a hands-on approach. Throughout the summer, Urban Scholars will also participate in a number of activities including a roundtable discussion with leaders from across the metropolitan area, a volunteer project through United Way, networking events and site visits.

Urban Scholars is managed by the Equity Division of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, which aims to close the employment gap in a city and metro area that suffers from one of the highest disparities between white and non-white unemployment in the country

Learn more about Urban Scholars.

For reasonable accommodations or alternative formats please contact the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights at 612-673-2697. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to call 311 at 612-673-3000. TTY users call 612-673-2157 or 612-673-2626.   Para asistencia 612-673-2700 – Rau kev pab 612-673-2800 – Hadii aad Caawimaad u baahantahay 612-673-3500.

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