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Peace Circle In Blue – Connecting Community and Police

October 26, 2010
Amicus Peace Circle with St. Paul Police Department

Members of the St. Paul Police Department joined the Amicus Peace Circle for the first time Oct. 9.

Guest Blog from Amicus Communications Director Steve Nelson

When the Amicus Peace Circle first came together in early 2010, Russel Balenger remembers a few common denominators among the members.

“We all mistrusted the police and felt they didn’t trust us either. More importantly though, none of us wanted to go to another funeral for one of our children or grandchildren.”

As family and neighbors of teenagers involved in violence and gang activity, many of the peace circle members had experienced the pain of watching their children fall prey to violence. Adding to that pain, circle members had encountered police officers who seemed to believe that parents and relatives of gang-involved teenagers were guilty by association.

Through the Peace Circle, members began sharing stories of their encounters with police.  In order to make it a safe place to talk honestly, what’s said in a circle is considered confidential. In general though, members spoke about the painful consequences of an encounter with police which don’t often get discussed.

  • Imagine what it’s like to clean up your house after a police search.
  • Imagine talking to neighbors who are wondering whether it’s safe to live next door to you, or explaining to your boss why you didn’t show up for work when you were arrested for something you didn’t do. These circumstances are all too real for several Peace Circle members.

In October, the Peace Circle welcomed St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith and members of his administration to their Monday night session. The atmosphere was respectful, offering space for members to tell their stories of encounters with the police and for police to talk about the thought processes and challenges of being “on the street.”  One member of the force discussed how when he was young, relationships were such that a police officer on patrol might wave to a neighbor and expect a wave back. He’d like to get back to that, but recognized that it would be challenging.

The evening was only a start to the conversation, but it was a start.

Police committed to staying involved in the circle  and all left hoping for a chance to build a different kind of relationship.  Judging by what was shared, getting over the hard feelings and mistrust on both sides won’t be easy and may not always be possible, but it’s worth it if we can avoid even one more funeral.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Davina St.James permalink
    October 26, 2010 11:58 am

    I have seen both sides of the spectrum. From whittnessing my husband gunned down by a Minneapolis Cop (google Dontay St.James shooting) & now for he past year I have been in property managment & work with the police as well as task force members. I know I have to be suffering from PTSD after what I saw that night watching my husband nearly killed.. Now working with “The Enemy” so to speak.. It has been a healing process & I have come to find that not all cops are bad cops & have seen what they have to go through trying keep people safe & fight crime.. When I was a little girl police & firemen were heros to me. But years of seeing the dark side of the police force left a bitter taste in my mouth for them..

    • November 11, 2010 9:06 pm

      You’ve been through so much. How difficult to have seen your husband almost killed by the police, and now to have to work with them. And yet, some are good people, as you say. Amicus wishes your family the very best. I hope with time the stress level will abate.

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