Metro Transit Northside Beat duo fosters community connections

Since moving to Minnesota from Kansas City 19 years ago, Metro Transit Police Officer Sidney Jones has called north Minneapolis home. Now, he and his partner, Marcus Johnson, are trading the bus for a brand new beat.

"Everyone assumes that because it says Metro Transit that all we do is ride the buses and the light rails and we do have officer that do that but we also have patrol squads," Jones said.

For 5 days a week, the dynamic duo drives along routes like the 5 and 19 checking in with business owners and riders in bus shelters. Their mission is not only to reassure riders they are safe, but also to form relationships that will help them stop trouble before it starts.

"Rather than waiting for something bad to happen on a bus or a bus shelter, what the beat cops are doing is going out there, talking to the community which is the best barometer for where problems are," Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said.

Harrington said since the pilot program went full time last fall, he hasn't seen a spike in arrests, but the number of complaints has gone down and the general tone among bus riders on the north side seems to be much more upbeat.

"Being a beat cop for me has always been synonymous with being effective, being connected and really getting results."

At a time when tensions between police and communities of color seem to be at an all-time high, Jones says getting to know the people they here to protect and serve is the best way to give back.

"We are trying to put a different outlook on how we are viewed by the community to do that we have to start reaching out and showing that we care," he said.

The pilot program costs about $250,000 a year, and right now, there are only the two officers, but Metro Transit hopes to expand it from 5 to 6 days a week. Meanwhile, community members are looking for a permanent place on the north side for the beat cops to set up shop.

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