MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The murder of George Floyd placed Minneapolis at the forefront of a national conversation about policing, community safety and alternatives to traditional law enforcement. From there, the idea for the Community Safety Specialist Program was born.
On Saturday night, the very first class of 13 men graduated from the program, which is a first of its kind partnership between the Northside Residents Redevelopment Council (NRRC), NEXT Global Security and the SEIU Local 26 labor union.
"There was tension between the residents and the police department around (George Floyd). There was a need for the residents to call about domestic issues without having a strange officer in their home. There was a need for advocacy for a kid who may be in trouble," said Gayle Smaller, NRRC Chair.
The goal of the program is twofold: improve public safety while creating a career pipeline for those interested in public safety, security and violence prevention.
The positions are state-certified and pay $23 an hour, with benefits. It requires a rigorous training course that includes becoming licensed as an emergency medical and mental health first responder. The men also live in the Willard-Hay or Near North neighborhoods, so they are connected to the community and right there when they're needed.
"All of these guys live in the neighborhood...they are able to respond in a minute or two," said Smaller.
Troy Bowman is one of the graduates. He was born and raised in north Minneapolis and says he jumped at the opportunity to help shift the direction of the area and improve safety for residents.
"I wanted to see and be a part of the change we are trying to make out here," said Bowman.
These graduates will also have access to wraparound services to support their own growth, including access to first-time home buyer support, credit counseling and trauma-informed support.
To learn more about the program, click here.