Breaking News
More () »

St. Paul Police look to build diverse community advisory council

The advisory council isn't new, but this year there's an open invitation to all community groups.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The St. Paul Police Department said it wants more community members sitting at the table when it comes to making decisions.

In an effort to uplift more voices, Chief Axel Henry said the department is looking to build a more diverse community advisory council. There has always been some sort of advisory council, but this year, Deputy Chief Pamela Barragan is heading up the charge in casting a wider net. The department is looking to have representatives from 25 to 30 groups that serve diverse communities to gather, and give feedback.

According to the most recent U.S. Census, St. Paul's population consists of nearly 55 percent White, 19 percent Asian, and 16 percent African American residents. With those figures in mind, the police department is looking for a new approach.

"If I don't try, I don't know," Deputy Chief Barragan said. "What's the worst that can happen? 'Well, this is not something I want to do.' But at least we tried." 

Barragan said she's hoping that attitude will reverberate as it moves forward.

"Our purpose is to have more voices at the table," Barragan said. "So we can have a better idea of what really is happening in our communities, and how really we can partner with them and give the power to the community to see the police department as an asset."

The department is looking to glean info from candid conversations about policing policies, both current and upcoming. Barragan said it also wants to address chief concerns both specific and non-specific to certain communities.

"We have a crisis in our communities, our young people," President and CEO of the African American Leadership Council (AALC), Tyrone Terrill said. "They don't come out of their mother's womb with a pistol in their hand, wanting to steal a car, wanting to be hungry, or wanting to be homeless."

"At the end of the day, if we're not meeting the basic needs of our communities, they're not going to be successful," May Yer Thao said. Thao is the President and CEO of the Hmong American Partnership(HAP). "Where we need to work more closely with organizations such as St. Paul police department, it is to help each other understand what are those basic needs."

Even for well-established groups like the AALC and HAP, this gathering at the table, is another chance to grow their rolodexes.

"As our communities grow and evolve, that's when we do need to look for other partners and get creative too-- not just do the same old same old to address issues," Thao said.

"If you're not at the table, then you don't get to eat, you don't get to participate," Terrill said. "So I would tell any community-based organization that it's extremely important for you to come here and also get to know other leaders. Many times we have conflicts exist within our communities, and if there's no relationship, no trust, then that won't happen."

If you are a part of an organization that you believe should be a part of this St. Paul-based council, you can reach Deputy Chief Pamela Barragan here.

Watch more Lifting Voices:

Watch all of the latest stories from Lifting Voices in our YouTube playlist:

Before You Leave, Check This Out