Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Is Why We Need More Hmong Police Officers in the 4th Precinct!






Guest post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman

On Monday I was driving to work and I saw a car that had been totaled and spun around facing the wrong way on Emerson. I thought about calling it in to 311 to say that we had a vehicle that obviously wasn't drivable and needed to be towed away. But a little voice seemed to speak up in my head that I should hold off. I couldn't say why, but I've learned to trust that intuition. It's a good thing I did, because tonight at the Hawthorne Crime Prevention and Family Safety meeting, I found out what happened...

ADDENDUM: The accident happened early on Saturday morning. While it has been described as a "hit and run," the vehicle that crashed into the parked car did NOT drive away. However, the driver and any other passengers did flee on foot and have not been caught.

ADDENDUM: See comment section for a post from an officer who responded to the call. It seems the officer did everything right, including getting one of the night shift Hmong officers to come and translate. Perhaps the confusion was more around the bewilderment any of us would feel if our car was totaled at 2 a.m. in this way. Still, I stand by my claim that we need more Hmong police officers in the 4th Precinct on the day shift, but I am deeply grateful for the service of the men and women of the Minneapolis Police Department.

A Hmong family who lives at 26th and Emerson owns the vehicle in question. They were woken up at about two in the morning (it's unclear if this happened at 2 a.m. on Sunday or Monday) to a loud crash. Their beautiful car was the victim of a hit-and-run by a driver they say was drunk.

Two thoughts immediately sprang to mind upon hearing the story and knowing what the vehicle looked like: thank GOD nobody was hurt, and how in the WORLD does the other car manage to drive away from something like that?

The family did call 911, and the police did show up. But it seems that the response was not helpful enough. I spoke with one relative and from what I can gather, no translation services were offered. Organizers from CURA are helping us and the family work with the insurance company because-surprise!-they don't have Hmong translation either.

About a month ago, a meeting was held at Farview Park where, based on a report, we asked CMs Samuels and Johnson to help get a Hmong police officer in the 4th Precinct - and one that works the day shift. We know the steps to make that happen won't be easy, but we need to be intentional about doing everything we can to accomplish this.

In the meantime, this family needs a police visit from someone who speaks Hmong or has a translator. It was brought up at our Crime and Safety meeting that Hawthorne sponsored some business cards that read, "I do not speak English. Please call ______, _______, or ________ for translation in (insert language)." We were asked if we could start this program up again as a building block for police relations with the Hmong community, and we will do that.

I want to make it clear that I am not blaming anyone except the hit-and-run driver, but I am emphatically stating a need in Hawthorne and the 4th Precinct and I hope that we can make this happen.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am being a bit snide with this comment but, Hmong families living in Minneapolis are a long way away from Southern China, Burma, Vietnam and Laos. They live in Minneapolis now. Here you and JNS are going to your politician buddies to get them to hire a Hmong police officer. What are they doing? To get to the point... Why is their English not good enough to relay enough information for the police to get a report?
I don't understand why people born in America or those of us that speak English need to ajust to people (regardless of where they are from) living here but, are from another non-English speaking country. Look at it from the opposite side. If I were to move to Vietnam or Egypt or Turkey and did NOT speak the native language, what would they say or think when an American couldn't get the police to make a report because of the language barrier? I can't imagine the locals would do what you and JNS are doing. I have to admit that I would do what I could to learn their language as fast as I could because, I am the one from somewhere else and it is up to me to adapt to their country. I think it would be asking a lot for me to expect their country to adapt to me.
Hire a Hmong officer. That is merely putting a band-aid on the problem. Why not ask non-english speaking residents in No-Mi if they are actively learning to speak English? If they are not, I think its reasonable to say that they need to get in some classes.
Hiring a Hmong speaking officer would sure look great PR-wise on this blog and all the fluff that comes with it but, it is still a band-aid.

Anonymous said...

here's an idea: How about the non-english speakers learn english?

Of course it takes some time to do this, but it needs to be done. Catering to every native language does not give much incentive to learn the language here, in thier new home.

Just a thought. Hopefully a few "workarounds" can be sought for the temporary time that non-english speakers need to learn English.

Narec said...

Oh my goodness. What insight. Let us know what you think we all can do to help push that agenda. I think every community should have someone of their own race to help bridge the gaps of service coverage. This is obviously one of those gaps. Some loser now gets away with harming that family financially, physically and emotionally. Perhaps this can be prevented in the future.

guynmpls said...

Wow. I thought we lived in America. THE country built and supported by hundreds of years of immigration and immigrants. I guess I was misinformed, I guess everyone must assimilate to the one norm, in a country that does not have an official language, because of the immigrant populations, and speak English. Guess we're about totalitarianism here. We should all be the same...

len lewis said...

in the holy grail of participation by all, acceptance of immigrants becomes an encouragement to be move from the community that is like us to the community of all of us. Hawthorne has been challenged for more than a century as being a place to be different and then move on as you learn the "ropes".there are a number of small steps that we as a community can take that can make life less a struggle. alowing people to be a part of the community while learning the language is a vital part of answering the livability challenges and crime issues that we face daily.
len lewis
hawthorne
an interesting note, of the ten or so soccer players jay clark brought with to the HNC crime and safty mtg. last night, none were interested in law enforcement careers.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

Sighhhh....

I thought we'd get the "Yer in America. Learn English already!" sentiments. I am not opposed at all to the idea that one should learn to speak the language of the country they are living in.

BUT

In the interest of space, I won't go into the whole historical context of the Hmong and why one could make the argument that in many ways America owes them a debt of gratitude. And maybe later we can have a discussion about being refugees seeking asylum and how that's different than many immigrants' decision to locate here.

Instead, I'd like to focus purely on the livability issues on my block, in my neighborhood. I agree that it's not feasible to have a language represented for every single person in a precinct. That's just folly.

But this report clearly shows that the 4th Precinct has a large representation of Hmong residents and Hmong police officers aren't here. Why does that matter to a white dude who, up until a few months ago, has had relatively little contact with Hmong in NoMi?

Good Samaritan mentality aside, the driver who hit this car is still out there. He or she or they will likely continue engaging in the kind of behavior that led to this accident. Whose car will they hit next? Will it be a kid in a crosswalk next to a park or school? Will it even be in NoMi, or maybe that tragic event (God forbid it happen at all) will be in some fancy suburb.

And this is a pattern. It might not be as vividly graphic as what is shown in this blog post, but this gap between crime that is witnessed or experienced and crime that is reported and prosecuted is HUGE in the Hmong community. We close that gap, and my neighborhood becomes safer for EVERYONE.

veg*nation said...

wow. wow. i'm really embarrassed by the comments of Anon 3:40. thank you len lewis and others for your thoughtful replies!

Anonymous said...

Yeah... I have to agree with veg*nation.

The whole "they should just learn to speak English" thing is missing the point.

I'd guess there's about a 100% chance that anyone who has migrated to the United States is, in one way or another, learning English. It's a time consuming process and while it goes on Idiots get drunk and run into occupied and unoccupied vehicles.

We live in the most diverse section of perhaps the most diverse population center between Chicago and San Francisco. It is not unreasonable or unrealistic to expect that the agency tasked with protecting and serving the public have translation services for the larger non-English speaking minority populations.

All you folks who think "Just Learn English" is an effective solution to the problem posed in this blog post... are unsophisticated dorks.

Matt said...

It seems clear that something needs to happen soon, and that a Hmong day shift police office isn't coming soon enough, nor is it feasable to expect a current day shift police officer to learn enough Hmong to be effective anytime soon.

Alternatives need to be explored, and helping a community to learn enough English to be able to report crimes would be helpful. Perhaps someone in the community, from a University, or from a local public school would be willing to volunteer time to teach a class specific to the English needed to report crimes. Or perhaps the Hmong community could create a network of English speakers that could respond in these kinds of situations to offer translation services.

A Hmong representative on the neighborhood council would go a long way towards helping this situation. Idealistic is great, but realistic is how things really get done, and everybody in the neighborhood needs to realize that the ability for any neighbor to report crimes effectively and promptly will result in better neighborhood for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone find it odd that people who can't speak or read english are allowed to drive? I'm not sure i'd drive in Vietnam, Cambodia, China or wherever I couldn't read the signs.

Clearly not so clear said...

That does make me ask a question... How do you get a drivers license without knowing how to read, speak or write English? Are we assuming to much to think that they don't read, speak or write any English? Is the process different for immigrants (assuming that they're immigrants)?

just a cop said...

Parts of this incident, as reported are simply untrue. I was a responding Officer on this crash. The suspect vehicle was undrivable and towed to the impound lot.

That night, I did utilize a Hmong speaking officer over the phone in describing what needed to be done A) giving him a case number and B) instructing him to contact his insurance company.

If a Hmong officer would not have been available, I would have contacted the language line available to us on our city cell phones.

No suspects were arrested at the scene, despite having another squad car (K-9 Officer) searching the area.

It is a terrible tradgedy, and the couple seemed very nice.

I can empathize that even with the language line, many within the Hmong community don't trust the police. But there is little I can do other than try to build that trust one call at a time.

just a cop said...

Parts of this report are simply untrue. I was a responding Officer on this crash. The suspect vehicle was undrivable and towed to the impound lot.

That night, I did utilize a Hmong speaking officer over the phone in describing what needed to be done A) giving him a case number (Blue Card) and B) instructing him to contact his insurance company.

If a Hmong officer would not have been available, I would have contacted the language line available to us on our city cell phones.

No suspects were arrested at the scene, despite having another squad car (K-9 Officer) searching the area.

It is a terrible tradgedy, and the couple seemed very nice.

I can empathize with the members of the Hmong community that do not trust the police, but what can I really do about the situation? All I try to do is earn that trust one call at a time.

just a cop said...

Parts of this report are simply untrue. I was a responding Officer on this crash. The suspect vehicle was undrivable and towed to the impound lot.

That night, I did utilize a Hmong speaking officer over the phone in describing what needed to be done A) giving him a case number and B) instructing him to contact his insurance company.

If a Hmong officer would not have been available, I would have contacted the language line available to us on our city cell phones.

No suspects were arrested at the scene, despite having another squad car (K-9 Officer) searching the area.

It is a terrible tradgedy, and the couple seemed very nice, even under the circumstances.

I can empathize with members of the Hmong culture who do not trust the police. But what can I realistically do? All I can do is try to build those bridges on every call I go on.

The Hawthorne Hawkman said...

To "Just a Cop:"

First, thank you for your service to the people of Minneapolis and to this family in particular.

Second, I did get more information in a later conversation with the family that clarified points more so than this original post. I put up the knew knowledge in a subsequent post. But I am grateful for whatever factual corrections can be made.

That being said, I stand by my call that we need more Hmong police officers in the 4th Precinct and that this incident is an example of why. I know you have your job to do and that responding to calls such as this crash are the ways in which you can build bridges and I appreciate that deeply.

Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Hawkman

MeganG. said...

Hey "just a cop" -

Cool to have you drop by and comment! Be sure to tell all your co-cops that we love the 4th precinct.

You guys are doing an awesome job and you have no idea how many of the community members are so thrilled to see your hard work paying off with some great statistics!

Keep it up and stay warm this coming winter!