Minn. police department removes recruitment video after receiving criticism
Members of the community voiced concerns over what they believed was a lack of diversity and community engagement in the video
By Louis Krauss and Tim Harlow
MINNEAPOLIS — Activists and community members voiced outrage at a rally outside Brooklyn Center City Hall on Monday evening to denounce what they call a hyper-militarized video produced by the Police Department to recruit officers to the force.
The video, which appeared last month on the city's website and social media platforms, was taken down following the criticism. A message on the city's website says the video is unavailable, but it continues to circulate on social media.
Speakers at the rally demanded the city hold accountable the people who made and approved the recruitment video.
"It triggered a lot of emotions," said Katie Wright, the mother of Daunte Wright, who was killed by a former Brooklyn Center officer in 2021. "It was done at nighttime, showing weapons, (rifles) being put into the vehicles, high speed chases through our community to pull over a car where they're pulling out weapons. That's not what our community is."
Police Chief Kellace McDaniel said in an interview Monday that the department would develop a new recruitment video that better reflects the department's community service and engagement.
The video, set to soaring music, shows members of the Police Department preparing for duty. A roll call session is followed by officers leaving the building heading for their squads. One carries a rifle. The video then shows officers in squad cars racing to a scene where they arrest a suspect and recover handguns.
"Be the change," reads text laid over the video's ending. "Up to $10,000 sign-on bonus, up to $101,000 salary."
McDaniel said he knew of the video before it was posted, and acknowledged it does not represent the full breadth of the Brooklyn Center community.
"I understand what the video had done and the effect it had on some in the community," McDaniel said. "I understand this was a setback for some community members. Guaranteeing safety and security is the main thing we do at the Police Department."
Following the rally, more than 50 people entered the packed City Council meeting, with representatives from several organizations speaking out against the video during a public comment period. Cynthia Wilson, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, echoed others saying the city needs to take action against those who approved the video.
"It is our job to hold each other accountable, and the only way that we're going to get change — and significant change — is if we do it together," Wilson said.
A lot of people were at Brooklyn Center City Hall to express their concern about the City of Brooklyn Center recruitment video. pic.twitter.com/g7fkHh6VES— Dymanh Chhoun (@Dymanh) January 10, 2023
A common complaint was that the video didn't reflect Brooklyn Center's diversity. The suburb is 67% people of color, according to U.S. census data. Others suggested the city should look to Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments' recruitment videos, saying theirs better reflect diversity and community engagement.
The rally lined up with the city swearing in new Mayor April Graves and two new City Council members, but the events are not related. Graves in November beat incumbent Mayor Mike Elliott, who rose to national prominence following the police shooting of Wright, an unarmed Black man.
The city has tried to rebuild trust between police and the community following police shootings of two Black men, including Wright, between 2019 and 2021. But Michelle Gross with Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) said the video was troubling. The purpose of a recruiting video is to show off the culture of a workplace, she said, but this video depicted a militaristic environment and showed no female officers.
"Who are you trying to recruit?" Gross asked. "That is the magic question."
Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities and other groups planned the rally.
"The video is insensitive, triggering and loaded with police propaganda. We want answers and we demand accountability," the groups said.
The video surfaced at a time when the city is down police officers, after former officer Kimberly Potter shot Wright during a traffic stop in April 2021. Potter was found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison.
Brooklyn Center, a north metro suburb bordering Minneapolis, is authorized for 49 officers, according to Dec. 5 City Council minutes. But the department employs only 39 officers, of which 31 can actively take calls.
Over the nearly two years since the Wright shooting and that of another Black man, Kobe Dimock-Heisler, the city passed the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Act in an effort to remake its Police Department. Some of those reforms propose using social workers and other trained professionals to respond to medical, mental health and social needs calls that don't require police.
One of CUAPB's demands in the wake of the recruitment video was to immediately enact all provisions of that act.
Last year, the city enacted a new citation policy allowing officers to ticket offenders for misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors and let them go rather than arrest them.
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