On Monday October 24, 2016 volunteers from across the Metropolitan area came together at City hall to celebrate the many efforts advancing civil rights in Minneapolis. Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Executive Director, Velma Korbel, hosted the first Annual Civil Rights Partners Appreciation Celebration as a way to acknowledge the commitment and volunteerism of community partners.
The work and continuous efforts of so many volunteers helps the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights achieve its mission to promote and protect equal justice, equal access and equal opportunity for the people of Minneapolis. Civil Rights celebrants are members of three primary groups: the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights, the Police Conduct Oversight Commission, and the MDCR Ambassadors. Each group contributes greatly the success and reach of the Department.
The Minneapolis Commission on Civil Right (MCCR) promotes and protects the civil rights of Minneapolis residents and workers. It does so by implementing the City’s civil rights ordinance in an advisory capacity to the enterprise through research and study, community education, and outreach and forums. This year alone, the MCCR participated in 70 plus hours of community outreach. During the summer, commissioners took to the street to inform community members of their rights at various events, including Cinco de Mayo, Twin Cities Pride, Minnesota Juneteenth Festival, Minneapolis Urban League Family Day, and many others.
The MCCR also used its influence to impact broader civil rights issues. Earlier this year the commission drafted and passed a resolution opposing the Minnesota legislature’s codification of binary-based (male of female only) definitions of biological sex, particularly as it related the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Along with engaging community through outreach, the MCCR has an additional function of enforcement of the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances through their adjudicative power to hear case appeals or decide contested discrimination cases.
The Police Oversight Commission (PCOC) assures that police services are delivered in a lawful and nondiscriminatory manner by shaping police policy, auditing police misconduct cases, engaging the community in discussions of police procedure, and facilitating cultural awareness training for the Minneapolis Police Department. Earlier this year, the PCOC completed a research and study on officer interactions with persons with mental health related issues. That study included a recommendation that the Minneapolis Police Department implement a co-responder pilot program, where a mental health professional would respond with a police officer to calls where mental health issues arise. Since the release of that report and recommendation, the Mayor, in her budget address, proposed funding for three police officers and $200,000 to implement a co-responder pilot program.
More recently, the PCOC directed a study addressing concerns regarding complaint filing. Civil Rights staff members participated as testers and attempted to file complaints at all five precincts in Minneapolis. The study revealed a variety of challenges for citizens trying to file police misconduct complaints. Since the release of that study, improved complaint filing protocols are being developed in a collaborative effort between the Office of Police Conduct Review, Internal Affairs, and MPD Quality Assurance. Improvements already being implemented include development of a complaint card to give citizens more information on how to file a complaint, clarification in language on the complaint form, website improvements and an updated complaint filing manual. As a result of this work, the Office of Police Conduct Review was given funding by the Mayor to improve the complaint filing experience and will be exploring ways to use the make the process more accessible for complainants.
MDCR Ambassadors act as liaisons between their communities and the department. Ambassadors not only educate and inform community members of their rights and opportunities through the department, they also educate the department about community concerns. They help build and improve public trust and transparent lines of communication for all involved. For example, MDCR ambassador Ousman Camara, owner of K’s Dollar and Grocery -a corner store and deli located in North Minneapolis, leverages his connections with loyal customers to raise awareness and help eliminate discrimination. Osuman says, “I proudly display the MDCR brochures on my store counter. I encourage all customers to learn about the resources available, if not for themselves, for someone else.”
Join the group, become a volunteer today.
Volunteering time with the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights as a member of a commission or ambassador offers an excellent opportunity to become actively involved in City government and help shape your community. The Department of Civil Rights encourages residents to share their talents and perspectives. If you are interested in applying to a commission or becoming an ambassador please email Faith Jackson @ firstname.lastname@example.org.