The University of St. Thomas today outlined additional details of its inclusion in the settlement reached June 21 between the city of Brooklyn Center and the family of Daunte Wright, who was fatally shot during an April 2021 traffic stop in the Twin Cities.
The settlement includes a unique collaboration between the city and St. Thomas – Minnesota’s largest private university – to provide intercultural and bias training for Brooklyn Center’s police officers on a pro bono basis. St. Thomas’ Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will conduct assessments aimed at helping each individual officer in the department better understand their abilities to adapt and respond to intercultural and relational differences. Using the aggregate data, St. Thomas will then examine the department’s culture and recommend ways to strengthen and improve it to best meet its mission.
“Our approach will be to guide the department to create an intercultural development plan aimed at transformation, growth and community building,” said Kha Yang, the university’s associate vice president for inclusive excellence, who leads its Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Yang, a Certified Diversity Executive, will oversee the team of trained experts that administers the assessments.
Once the assessments are completed, the aggregate data will also be used to create a tailored anti-bias training program designed specifically for the department. The trainings will be led by Dr. Tanya Gladney, Justice and Society Studies Department chair and associate professor at the University of St. Thomas.
“Bias trainings are nothing new, but they’re typically delivered in a standard format based on best practices, whereas this one will be specifically designed for the Brooklyn Center police officers based on the data collected in the assessments,” said Gladney, a former Mississippi State Capital Police officer who has worked with several Minnesota law enforcement agencies on bias trainings. “The individual assessments aspect is what makes this agreement especially unique because the aggregate data will help us determine what will be most applicable for an implicit bias training.”
Brooklyn Center’s acting Chief of Police, Tony Gruenig, said the department “looks forward to partnering with St. Thomas in the development and implementation of this training program.”
Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter on April 11, 2021. Potter, a white officer who testified she meant to use her service Taser instead of her pistol, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter on Dec. 23, 2021, at a jury trial in Hennepin County, Minnesota. The event, one of many across the country that has resulted in the death of a Black person at the hands of police, sparked demonstrations and protests calling for justice in Wright’s death and changes to policing.
“We often hear that police officers need to make split-second decisions. Our hope is that this training will help better prepare officers for those moments and encourage a stronger and healthier relationship between police officers and the community,” said co-counsel Jeff Storms of Newmark Storms Dworak LLC. “This joint undertaking is a novel and promising step toward meaningful change and impact.”