Minneapolis police officer Mike Kirchen hopped off his bike on a recent afternoon and strolled through the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, home to the largest Somali immigrant population in the United States.
Kirchen’s work is one thread in a federally funded community-policing initiative begun in January 2013. In a groundbreaking attempt to strengthen ties with Minneapolis’ Somali community, police are working with elders and young people, probation officers, courts, city and county attorneys' offices, business owners, and law enforcement experts.
In 2011, the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded a $600,000 grant to the Washington, DC-based Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), which, in turn, chose Minneapolis’ Somali-American community as its subject.
Denise O’Donnell, Bureau of Justice Assistance Director, said preliminary indications are that the project, which is scheduled to wrap up this fall, is working.
“We expect that this work will lead to a national model that cities can implement to build stronger trust … resulting in violence reduction and prevention,” she said.