Twin Cities police, community come together to address race issues

Tension between police and communities of color continue to dominate national headlines, but here in the Twin Cities, both sides are coming together to find solutions and ways to prevent more race-related problems.

The organizers of the Brooklyn Park meeting want to make it very clear, this is not about police bashing. Instead, it's to engage in dialogue, to improve relations between law enforcement and the community.

High ranking law enforcement leaders from multiple agencies, mayors, pastors, and activists all came together Sunday to address the uptick in complaints about officers.

A woman, who we'll call Mary for our story, says Brooklyn Park police pulled her over at least five times in the past year because of her skin color.

"It's something where you don't want to think that, but I am a black female."

She said they told her she appeared to be swerving in and out of the road, which she says she wasn't.

After lengthy background checks, she says the white police officers let her go each time without issuing a citation. But Mary now says she feels intimidated by anyone wearing a badge.

"It makes me go into a place of total submission, where just speaking up for your rights in just an appropriate way I might not do."

But speaking up is exactly what her pastor Harding Smith wants Mary to do.

"People tell me 'pastor, the only time a police officer comes in my community is to either arrest me, or bring pain and suffering,'" Smith said.

Smith leads the predominantly African American spiritual church of god in Robbinsdale, Minn. and says he's seeing an uptick in complaints about white police officers. Add to that, recent racial tension between law enforcement and communities of color in Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland, and Madison.

"We can change, we're not perfect, we make mistakes like everybody else," Brooklyn Center Police Chief Kevin Benner said.

Benner says effective communication is always needed and is a two-way street -- "When you yell all the time, all we hear is static."

Craig Enevoldsen, chief of police in Brooklyn Park, says his department is working on getting body cameras.

"The community feels like there needs to be a little more accountability from the police departments stand point," he said.

And all department leaders say they want to add more black and minority officers.

The forum Sunday was just the beginning. There are several more being planned in Minneapolis and Richfield to happen in the near future.