In an effort to improve community relations between the police and the public, Captain John Stahnke of the Coon Rapids Police Department has organized the City's first Multicultural Advisory Committee (MAC). The atmosphere is one of respect for cultural differences among its members. MAC currently has 16 members from the community and six from the police department.
"The goal of the Multicultural Advisory Committee, or the MAC, is to promote cultural awareness and enhance communication and understanding between the police department and diverse cultures within our community," Stahnke said.
Several members of the advisory committee represent minority populations and various ethnic groups. Among the members is Robert Murry, a black man, who is an assistant principal at Coon Rapids High School.
"I bring the perspective of a person that had to navigate 'whiteness,’" Murry said. He joined MAC last month, and said it's important for the police to hear from people of all races and creeds living in the community. "I think that I bring a different perspective, as a person of color, as a male, and as a person with a unique learning style, on how the police can better connect with the community," Murry said.
Each meeting will include a spotlight presentation from a MAC member. In August, Rebecca Anderson Fly was the presenter. She shared her perspective on policing, equity and systemic racism as a white woman who raised bi-racial children. She recalled a frightening incident years ago, when her youngest son, a teenager at the time, was confronted by police in front of their Minneapolis home. It was a case of mistaken identity, which illustrated the biases minority groups face. She wished her family had received an apology.
“Nobody expects perfection from any of us in our job,” Anderson Fly told the group. “If you can’t say I’m sorry, I made a mistake, relationship building will be tough.”
MAC candidates must first pass a criminal background check and go through an interview before being accepted. Captain Stahnke said the Coon Rapids Police Department hopes to build more empathy between the community and their officers through the committee's monthly meetings.
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