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Brooklyn Center police recruitment video sparks concern over department’s culture

Outraged groups are calling for the mayor, police chief and city manager to denounce the video, as well as the firings of those involved in making and posting the video.

A screen shot from a recruitment video produced by the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
A screen shot from a recruitment video produced by the Brooklyn Center Police Department.
Screen shot

Local activist groups are calling for the firing of Brooklyn Center city and police officials after the department posted a “militarized” recruitment video to its website.

The city quickly removed the video from the department’s social media pages and made it inaccessible on the city’s website. Amid ongoing policing reform efforts by the city after 20-year-old Black motorist Daunte Wright was killed by then-Brooklyn Center Police officer Kim Potter in April 2021, the recruitment video ignited concerns over accountability and the types of officers the department is trying to attract.

The video

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The recruitment video shows several officers listening to a briefing before following one officer carrying what appears to be an assault rifle to their squad car as a narrator says “professionalism, accountability, compassion, trust. This is Brooklyn Center.”

“It’s challenging. There will be hard days. Nobody said it would be easy to protect this community – your community,” the narrator says. “Will you answer the call?”

The rest of the darkly-shot video – with all outdoor scenes shot at night – features Brooklyn Center Police Department (BCPD) squad cars with lights flashing racing through the city’s streets. One section towards the end shows officers searching through a car during a traffic stop and finding a gun, followed by an officer putting someone in cuffs.

The video ends with “Be the change” in large letters, and a note at the bottom advertising up to a $10,000 signing bonus for joining the agency.

Most of the officers in the video appear to be white, and all of the officers appear to be male. A majority of the residents of Brooklyn Center are people of color – nearly 59% – and just more than 30% of residents are Black, according to Minnesota Compass.

The recruitment video comes after a year and a half of efforts by the city to reform its police department, which began when Potter fatally shot Wright during a “routine” traffic stop. The killing happened during the time of the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis less than 10 miles away, reigniting feelings of anger over George Floyd’s murder and sparking days-long protests outside of the Brooklyn Center police precinct.

Potter was convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter eight months after killing Wright. Potter claimed she had mistaken her service weapon for a Taser. She was sentenced in February to two years in prison, which the Wright family and its lawyers denounced as too lenient.

Response to the video

The video was immediately met with outrage and concern over the types of officers the police department was attempting to attract.

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“If you would use this as a recruitment video, you are trying to bring in a specific kind of person into your organization,” said Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB). “This is not what that police department should be about, especially given their history.”

CUAPB released a statement on Tuesday, cosigned by several other groups that included Black Lives Matter Minnesota and the Minneapolis NAACP, calling the video offensive and portraying a militaristic and racist style of policing that led to the killings by officers of Wright and before that, Kobe Dimock-Heisler in 2019 and five other Brooklyn Center residents of color since 2012.

“It was almost as if I was watching people getting ready to go to war,” said Katie Wright, Daunte Wright’s mother. “To watch the police that are supposed to serve and protect us drive through at high speed and pull a vehicle over and pull out weapons was very disturbing.”

The outraged groups are calling for the mayor, police chief and city manager to denounce the video, as well as the firings of city and police officials involved in making and posting the video on the city’s website and the department’s social media pages.

The groups also demand that the city immediately fund and implement all provisions of the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety and Violence Prevention Act – an ordinance passed shortly after Wright’s killing featuring several police reform and accountability measures. The measures include the creation of two unarmed units – one for traffic enforcement and the other for responding to medical, mental health and behavioral calls – as well as updates to BCPD’s use of force policies, and a new Community Safety and Violence Prevention department that would oversee the city’s public safety efforts.

In a statement to the Brooklyn Center-Brooklyn Park Sun Post, BCPD Chief Kellace McDaniel said the video doesn’t represent the “full breadth” of the department’s community policing and community engagement efforts, and committed to removing the video from all social media platforms.

“We understand that releasing the video in question would damage those efforts and the established trust with Brooklyn Center residents and surrounding communities,” the statement reads. “Our next step is to move forward and work with the Brooklyn Center Police Department and other city administrative departments to develop a video that reflects the quality of who we are as a city.”

Katie Wright said it was good that the city took action fairly quickly and removed the video from their social media pages and made it unavailable on the city website. But, she said, the statement from McDaniel lacked any promise for accountability.

“Not once did he say anything about holding his police officers accountable, and those police officers are a reflection of him and a reflection of our community,” she said. “There were several officers in the video, and if not one of them thought it was wrong then they shouldn’t be on the police force because we don’t need policing like that in our communities.”