MINNEAPOLIS — Engagement, deescalation and relationships are the three words that sum up the city's latest approach to re-imagining public safety as we know it in communities riddled with crime.
"We are really trying to interrupt the patterns of violence and get to the root of the matter and also inspire these young people," Said Sasha Cotton, the Director of the Office of Violence Prevention for the city of Minneapolis.
"We’re modeling our work which will be under the slogan and brand of 'Minneapol'us', it takes all of us to prevent violence," said Cotton.
Through the city’s Office of Violence Prevention department, the hope is to use unarmed civilians in order to help keep the peace.
"This model looks to specifically recruit people who have been impacted themselves by gang and group violence, who know the streets, come from those communities, have done the heavy work to get their lives on a different track and want to give back," said Cotton.
Through a $1.1 million investment from the city to amplify the needs of public safety, each civilian will be compensated and prepared through various avenues of training before hitting the streets.
"De-escalation and you know reconciliation as well as CPR and how to administer narcan we really want to make sure that folks are going out there well-equipped to do this work on the ground," said Cotton. She went on to say, “we obviously want to make sure that people are well trained to assess for safety and that they have good access to law enforcement but also know how to retreat to keep both themselves and the situations safe.”
With an uptick in crime amid calls to defund the city’s police department in the wake of George Floyd's death, people like Bethany Larson agree, a re-imagined approach to public safety is long overdue.
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over without something good happening so I think absolutely a change has to happen," said Larson.
A change city leaders say puts the ‘us’ in Minneapolis as we’re all in this together.
"As we begin to re-imagine what public safety looks like, lots of people have a role in that," said Cotton. "This is certainly not an initiative to do policing but to do community engagement, you know some patrol like activity.”