Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hmong Children Respond to Community Meeting

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman

After last Saturday's recent meeting between many NoMi Hmong residents and several public officials, some organizers had a discussion with Hmong youth ages 9 through 13. They told an organizer what they liked and didn't like from the meeting. It should come as no shock that the "didn't like" column was focused largely on the behavior of the police.

I was asked to publish this list, and whether I agree with its content or not, whether I think it is politically savvy or not, the list is substantive. I decided to use the same standards for what these kids wrote as I would for any other comment submitted to the JNS blog. Virtually all substantive comments get approved.

ADDENDUM: I expressed doubt regarding the "over 100 people" comment below and was later informed that organizers did a head count and tallied 91 people in attendance. More came after that count, so the claim of having over 100 people is likely accurate.

So, without further ado, the children in attendance liked and did not like the following things...


-Everybody stood up, talked
-Adults spoke up
-Girls row had attitude
-Yue helped
-More time for volleyball
-Blong, parents, most powerful, said I'm angry
-Over 100 people
-Police say sorry
-I don't care what police say
-Yia say in Hmong
-Kids talk about problems

Did Not Like
-Police talked too much
-Talk about gangs, not what we wanted
-Police changed subject
-Councilmember doesn't talk
-Police talked impolite
-Police talked bad
-Police talked hostile
-Said no to Hmong translator (unclear if this "said no" was in reference to the translator at this event or to whether translators were otherwise available)
-Police only talk of gangs
-Police talk for two hours (also unclear if the time is accurate; but this is what the children said and is being reprinted here)
-Very disrespectful
-Police yelled at us, we need video of his behavior
-Police talked to much
-He's scary

I was also sent the following letter, attributed to the kids who participated in the post-meeting discussion. It should be noted that although the list and the letter often say "police" in general terms, there was only one police officer present for the duration of the meeting and the discussions.

"April 11, 2010

To Councilmember Samuels:

We are Hmong students at Saturday’s meeting.
At Saturday’s meeting, we did not like police officer Lembek.
He was mad
He was mean
He said he doesn’t need Hmong translators
He doesn’t listen
He talked too much
He only thought of gangs
He yelled at us
He was impolite.
He talked about gangs, not what we wanted.
We do not want him at our meetings
He was scary
He hates the Hmong
He said we are gangmembers, and we aren’t. Our families are angry at him for saying that.
He read our list of problems, but he minimized what we said."

Once again, I wish to stress that Lindback did apologize and that many of his ideas were solid ones that deserve immediate action. I also personally disagree with the statement that "he hates the Hmong." But the responses above and the specific request to publish them here indicate a serious issue.

One other anecdote is important to note here. At one point when Lindback was suggesting a series of community discussions, he asked whether people would be interested in knowing what happens if their own child were arrested and charged with a serious crime. Wouldn't people want to understand the criminal justice system and how their child might navigate through such processes?

In short, the answer was "no." If their child was arrested, or if he did something wrong, let him suffer the consequences. People who responded essentially said that they weren't overly concerned about what would happen to their child as long as he (or she) were held accountable for breaking the law.

Later, I asked if this response was a reaction borne out of opposition to Lindback or whether it was expressive of Hmong cultural values. I was told that "you could not have an immigrant group more tailor-made to interact with the police," from the standpoint that they place a high value on law and order.

The Hmong youth and the "girls with attitude" have been calling officials to schedule a follow-up meeting so that the dialogue can continue.


Jebediah said...

Frankly I'm glad that these punk kids are scared of the cops.

This is NoMi. The cops aren't here to hold people's hands and help old ladies with their groceries. They are here to protect and serve. And I count intimidating people into law abiding behavior as protecting.

God bless the 4th Precinct.

Didn't appreciate wha ya had. said...

I think the next time the MPD should just say no thank you and use their time catching crooks. It's obvious that just because this community can't get the special treatment they seek that they are framing the cops as bad guys instead of taking some responsibility themselves. It's been brought up to use Hmong liasions to perform on-call translation services which are a better solution to instituting special hiring and union busting preferences for one particular community of citizens.

Johnny Northside said...

The Hmong need and deserve a Hmong police officer. This blog stands in favor of a Hmong officer on the daytime shift. But this blog also approves most "substantive" comments, including the two mean ones above.

Mean. Just mean.

Anonymous said...

Ok lets assume that they do "need" a Hmong police officer. Not saying i'm agreeing but lets just say they do.

Explain to me what they did to "deserve" their own police officer? I'm well aware of the contribution the Hmong people made during Vietnam but please do not use that as your example of how in NOMI these particular Hmong should get their own police officer.

Johnny Northside said...

The Hmong are contributing to NoMi every day as residents and home owners. The Hmong community is collectively asking for this and not--so far as I can tell--asking for much more than this relatively small thing. Why deny it? It would be a helpful thing for everybody.

Anonymous said...

The cops are professional enough to know when they need a translator and get one to the scene. Often times they can handle the situation by getting the younger ones to translate for the older ones.

If someone is confessing to murder or something like that, be damn sure the cops are recording it and making translators available.

This is nothing but a "feel good" idea. I can understand why the police Lt. wasn't too excited about all the belly aching.

Johnny Northside said...

It's not a feel good idea. This is a deeply held desire of this community. It may seem "feel good" to non-Hmong. It is deeply desired by the Hmong, however.

Walk several miles in their shoes. Think about it from their point of view. Don't just throw around a label like "feel good."

One of the community said...

I think we would need to ensure that the designated Hmong officer would be available to respond to all calls. The example of car 410 holding the Hmong officer but car 450 being closer is a good one. To ensure the Hmong officer is available as much as possible I think we'd need to station them in the property room or some role where they could respond asap to calls related to Hmong community needs. If they are busy responding to requests from the wider community it won't be fair to the Hmong so I think the key is to find a role for this officer during non-call times to ensure they can drop what they are doing and respond to the community.

Anonymous said...

Is there a Hmong officer on the night shift? If so how do they ensure that this officer shows up for all Hmong calls?

Anonymous said...

If there is another meeting involving the Hmong community and the police, would it help or hurt the situation to ask one of the night-shift Hmong officers we have to attend? I must admit that I sympathize with the Hmong officers, too. Law enforcement is a politicized profession to begin with, but their jobs are even more so.

While I can appreciate the attitude of many that the Hmong should just learn English, I would just make this observation: my family is of German decent, and settled in central Minnesota. In those communities, it was common to speak German in the home even into the second and third generations and beyond.

It seems people think that the "melting pot" isn't working anymore because issues like this are now discussed openly. I think that the melting pot is working about the same as it always has done - it takes several generations to work, not just a few years.


NOMI Here To Stay said...

Is it possible to levy a tax on the propery owners in NOMI to cover this? Perhaps then we wouldn't have to pull from the existing force and thus disrupt the union. We could recruit the best Hmong officer we could find, perhaps one who can also teach Hmong to the other officers. This obviously is not free so we'd need to somehow raise revenue to cover this investment.

Anonymous said...

One think I think we're forgetting. If Hmong criminals are not read their Miranda rights in Hmong they may get off and be right back on the streets of NOMI. This is a compelling reason to have either all officers learn Hmong or hire Hmong officers for each shift.

Anonymous said...

Please quantify, as precisely as possible, the most effective composition of NoMi patrol officers by race and languages spoken.

Should we have 10% hispanic,40% black, 30% white 20% hmong?

What is the point of critical mass in a population, percentage wise, where we need to have race/language specific cops to target the problem?

If you could also, I would like to know why you're more qualified than the men and women of law enforcement to make these decisions.

Do you think the cops and prosecutors that tackle crime in Hennepin County aren't aware of the legal issues surrounding Miranda and whether a waiver of Counstitutional rights was done voluntarily?

Myself, I think that cops are doing a damn good job against incredible odds. I understand that they have hard jobs. I know enough of them to know they are very good at making use of their resources and getting a translator on scene if necessary.

Hilary said...

Obama's policy of "kill, don't detain" is far preferable to that of Bush. Federalizing the Gang Strike Force was a step in the right direction. This "stop snitching" movement has all of the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda and a coordinated Military, Federal, State & City Response is merited. President Obama has the power to solve NoMi's problems with Predator drones overnight. He gives these gifts of freedom to other countries with Predator drones to other countries, but not to us. I voted for change, and I am waiting for some leadership. We know who the bad guys are overseas, so we sure as heck know who they are here. It's time Obama stepped up and started using his power to rid us of this menace in our community.