BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn.--Tony Grainger moved to Brooklyn Center a year ago with his three kids. On their peaceful walk through their Minnesota neighborhood it's hard not to think about the violence in Ferguson.
"That's heartbreaking to see that you know things are getting worse," Grainger said.
Brooklyn Center's population is 30,712 people, which is comparable to the city of Ferguson. Their police departments are even similar in size. Commander Brian Peters says his department noticed a change in demographics in early 2005. So, Brooklyn Center and Hennepin County along with cities like Hopkins, Richfield, Brooklyn Park and Bloomington started the Joint Community Police Partnership to bridge the gap.
"If you come from a community that is very fear based it's very difficult for an individual to interact with police," Monique Drier the program's community liaison, said.
The program allows officers to reach out to their community and allows the community to have access to officers. Before the program the police department was nearly all white. To date of the city's 48 sworn officers seven are people of color. In Bloomington of the city's 118 officers, nine are people of color.
Peters said come next year Brooklyn Center will add another Hispanic officer to the department and hopes their cadet program will bring in more minorities.
"To have officers that speak a second language or may look like another group…that breaks down stereotypes and sometimes groups feel more comfortable speaking to someone that looks like them," Peters said.
Grainger says it's been hard to teach his sons how to trust police when violence fills their screen. But he believes more officers who look like them could be part of the solution.
"Then we might feel a little bit more comfortable," Grainger said.