The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 16, 2009

Minorities feel 'invisible' to public safety

Report recommends make "essential" relations

Minority report Large file (5.5 MB). 32 pages.



Ahmed Barkhadle says there’s a Mankato police officer who will occasionally stop by his shop across Front Street from the police station to buy some sugar cookies.

His customers freeze. Instead of seeing an icon of law and order, they eye a threat. They assume there’s a problem, not merely a man who likes his cookies.

Adam, a Somali immigrant who has been in Mankato for seven years, is one of many who say there is no trust between Mankato’s public safety department and its immigrants.

“The bridge is broken,” he said.

Consultants William and Linda Finney found similar results while interviewing members of Mankato’s diverse community. William Finney is a former St. Paul police chief who in 1969 began his law enforcement career as a reserve police officer in Mankato, where he was attending college.

The consultants heard about small collaborations between police and advocates for people with disabilities and victims of domestic violence. They found no such work with culturally diverse groups and very limited training despite offers of assistance.

A survey answered by public safety personnel showed they think they’re more effective dealing with minority groups than the groups believe they are.

Abdikadir Sugulle, who emigrated from Somalia in 1996, couldn’t recount any positive experiences with police.

“The bad experiences we have a lot of,” he said.

The good news is that Mankato’s problem is by no means unique, the Finneys reported.

“This is a goal that many agencies struggle to achieve and Mankato public safety is no exception,” they wrote.

New immigrants are also naturally untrusting of police, said Kent Cova-Suarez, who worked with recent arrivals for eight years as a part of the now-defunct Community Assistance for Refugees.



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