by Jim Steve
In 2014, the St Cloud Police Department reached out to leaders in the Greater St. Cloud community to build community support for community policing and public health and safety. A group of civic-minded citizens acknowledged the need for community support of public safety including police, fire and EMS and the development of trust-building strategies between civilians and all first responders.
In 2015, the Greater St. Cloud Public Safety Foundation was founded by local citizens to further these goals.The foundation’s mission is to be the leading advocate of public safety in the tri-county area.
In the five years since our inception, the GSCPSF has conducted significant outreach, enrichment and engagement efforts, including:
• establishing the Community Outpost in St. Cloud’s south side neighborhood
• conducting a survey of the residents in the south side neighborhood to further understand the impact of the Community Outpost on their community
• distributing scholarships to young prospective police, fire and emergency medical workers
• providing advocacy on behalf of the criminal justice program at St. Cloud State University
• implementing and hosting annual wellbeing conferences for first responders
• engaging in collaborative work with other foundations and emergency managers to supply PPE for vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic
• providing and distributing bagged lunches to more than 900 first responders in the tri-county area during the COVID-19 pandemic, and
• developing a program with local emergency managers and CentraCare to provide first responders in the tri-county area with supplies of N-95 masks and fit testing kits in response to the pandemic.
As the GSCPSF looks to the future, our volunteer board of directors has discussed strategies to continue our work as the leading advocate for public safety in our community.These discussions have been underscored by the civil unrest in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 and Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center in April 2021.
Several core tenets emerged from these conversations and have brought clarity to our way forward. We believe:
• The first civil right is the right to live in peace, regardless of race, background, financial status, sexual orientation, religion or political affiliation.
• Understanding and empathy by all parties are essential to achieving harmony in the community.
• The creation of peace is not the sole responsibility of police, but the civic responsibility of everyone. Respecting our neighbors’ civil rights, personal property, bodily safety and the freedoms protected by our laws and constitution is the way we ensure peace in our community.
As Americans, we are guaranteed the fundamental right to peaceful protest, assembly and demonstration, to vote and to run for political office. These rights are foundational to a free and open democracy, one that serves its people with liberty and justice for all.
In the past five years, we have observed the ways in which our system has failed to honor these fundamental rights and to uphold the implicit promise of equality, justice and protection under the law for all citizens.There is much about America’s past that must be reckoned with in our institutions and as individuals. We must, as a society and as individuals, work to understand, dismantle and prevent the repetition of the myriad inequalities that exist in our country and within our communities, particularly those which center on race and access to opportunity.
At the core of this vital work is personal responsibility and accountability: For our own conscious and unconscious biases, for our role in the status quo, and especially for the safety of our communities. Public safety must be prioritized as a nonpartisan issue by voters and policy-makers alike to ensure safety and opportunity for all.
As policymakers debate changes to policing nationally and at the state and local levels, the GSCPSF believes that highlighting and promoting successful local programs and policies are paramount to a successful strategy. These issues are complex, but we believe the long-term changes necessary to improve the public safety of our communities can be achieved by a response that is thoughtful, data-driven, culturally responsive, open to courageous and uncomfortable conversations, undertaken in good faith by all parties, and understanding of the realities of the communities served and the public servants charged with protecting our citizens.
Jim Steve serves on the GSCPSF board. He served 30 years in law enforcement and retired as a commander for the St. Cloud Police Department.