At the request of the community, Cedar-Riverside is welcoming new faces to the neighborhood.
After a year-long process, the Minneapolis Police Department assigned two Somali-American officers, Daadir Galayr and Mohamud Jama, to patrol the predominantly East African neighborhood. Community leaders and MPD hope the officers will help bridge the cultural divide between police and residents.
“They know the language of the street, and they will be able to interact with business owners and residents in an easier way since they’re bilingual,” Ward 6 City Council member Abdi Warsame said. “I think there’s a level of understanding of the culture and the norms that comes with being members of the community.”
Galayr and Jama will begin their patrols in the neighborhood later this month. The officers will be introduced to the community at an event on Feb. 20 alongside Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo.
Two other Somali-American officers, Abdiwahab Ali and Mohammed Abdullahi, previously worked in the area for a number of years, but both left after being promoted. When the constituents of his ward asked that Somali-American officers replace Ali and Abdullahi, Warsame began working with MPD to follow through on that request.
“A lot of times, they were not just police officers but they were educating community members, especially elders and parents, about how the system works,” said Abdirahman Mukhtar, founder of the local outreach effort Daryeel Youth and Cedar-Riverside resident of almost 15 years.
Mukhtar said Ali and Abdullahi’s presence in the community went beyond security of the neighborhood. Interacting with residents and participating in activities like coaching youth soccer helped the officers form trust with the community, he said.
“Being Somali, speaking Somali language and knowing the culture was just extra,” Mukhtar said. “They were doing their police job as good as any other police officer.”
Violent crime has been on the decline citywide, decreasing by more 17 percent last year according to MPD statistics. But Warsame said the neighborhood faces a number of issues outside of public safety, like poverty, unemployment and lack of youth resources.
“There’s many issues but I think one of the answers was, ‘Why don’t we have the same police officers that we had before?’” Warsame said. “These police officers got promoted and these young officers have come through and filled the gap, and we’re hopeful that this will have a transformative effect on the neighborhood.”
Cedar-Riverside Opportunity Center manager Saeed Bihi said working to decrease the unemployment rate in the area and provide educational opportunities for residents is easier when there’s a sense of safety and security in the community.
“You can prosper and [achieve] economic development when everyone feels safe,” Bihi said.