BY DORIS OVERBY
Sept. 3, 2022: Today was my first ride-along experience.
I drove downtown to the temporary 3rd Precinct building. An officer opened the door, and then I met Sgt. Stanton, who greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake. I had not been inside the facility before. It is a dreary place. Several months ago, I learned that the roof was leaking and calls for repairs were unheeded. There is a kitchen area, but it’s not adequately equipped. The city will not approve the installation of a stove. The city of Minneapolis has sold the building to a commercial developer.
My question is: When will the mayor, members of the City Council, and the majority of citizens in Minneapolis who want a 3rd Precinct building in our precinct, act?
Stanton has been an officer for 21 years. He has worked in four of the five precincts and has been in the 3rd Precinct for almost three years. He told me that he has met so many nice people in the precinct, both community members and police. He said that he meets citizens who say that they supported defunding the police in the past, and now they don’t know why they ever did. It was a mistake. I said that it would be helpful if our council members would also let their constituents know that they are sorry they supported defunding the police. It was the wrong stand to take. Some council members were listening to the loudest voices, and not the majority of citizens who understand that we need police to protect and serve our community.
Stanton is the supervisor of the day shift. We left downtown and headed out to the 3rd Precinct. We talked about the inconvenience of driving extra miles and taking extra time to get into the 3rd Precinct area. The community wonders why it takes so long to address 911 calls. There are two major reasons: (1) too few police officers to manage the 911 calls, and (2) the lack of a precinct building in the 3rd Precinct.
On this day, there was one squad car in each of the four sectors of the 3rd Precinct. One of the four squad cars had only one officer; the other three had two officers. The 3rd Precinct is the largest geographically and also the most diverse precinct in the city.
Six 911 emergency calls appeared on the screen in a matter of minutes. Two calls requested backup. This occurred at midday. There was an emergency call for a man experiencing a mental health crisis. The Behavioral Crisis Response Team (BCR) was called to the scene near Lake and Hiawatha. Stanton said that the BCR has helped significantly in addressing the 911 calls relating to mental health crisis situations. There was another 911 call from a woman whose mom was being abused by the daughter’s boyfriend. There was an incident at Little Earth. Stanton and I arrived there shortly after two police officers had resolved the issue. There were two 911 calls reporting robberies near the homeless encampment on 17th Avenue near Lake Street. Stanton maneuvered through the alley, where I witnessed two people with needles sticking out of their arms and smoking something near the backyards of neighbors. I saw people living on the corner in front of an elderly woman’s home. We drove south on 28th Avenue and I pointed out the homeless person that has been residing at Lake Hiawatha Park for six weeks.
At one of the 911 call locations Stanton introduced me to an officer who had been with the MPD for 10 years. At another location where a 911 call had been reported, I was introduced to two officers; one had been with the MPD one year and the other for six years. Both times I thought to myself if people could only meet these officers and talk with them, they would feel good about the police who protect and serve our community. To meet the officers and know firsthand what they experience everyday and every night going from one 911 call to another makes me wonder how it was possible to have a sense of humor and a smile. But they did as we talked.
Stanton was at the 3rd Precinct during the riots, the burning and devastation of the 3rd Precinct building and the burning, looting and devastation of area businesses. It was a conversation that was too terrifying for me to write about.
We drove on Lake Street, and I pointed out one of my favorite businesses, Ingebretsen’s, where I shop for smoked salmon, fish, cheese, chicken and gifts. Ingebretsen’s is a remarkable example of a Lake Street business that is not going anywhere. Ingebretsen’s has been around for 100 years and plans to be there for another 100 years. Their loyal customers are not going anywhere either. Stanton mentioned that, in the past, there have been rough times for the business. He used to help Julie Ingebretsen, one of the owners, clean up the sidewalks strewn with needles and other undesirable material.
Stanton knew that I am actively involved in 3-PAC (3rd Precinct Advisory Council). He knows that the purpose of 3-PAC is to foster communication between residents and the police of the 3rd Precinct. I mentioned that we also like being helpful in other ways, i.e., planning activities that provide meals to officers and their staff for special occasions and raising funds to purchase items for use by the precinct officers, such as exercise equipment, a BBQ grill, and the like. Recently, we set up a Facebook page and have plans to submit an article for semi-monthly inclusion in this neighborhood newspaper, Southside Pride.
A really cool part of the ride-along experience was getting to know Stanton. We talked about our families, kids, sports, food, where we grew up, and our exercise and wellness programs. When we returned to the precinct, I felt like we could become friends.
Overall, we were blessed with a fairly quiet day, and I came away with a feeling of hope for our city.