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Minneapolis Police Department Looks Back At Roots Of Diversity

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) --  The Minneapolis Police Department is looking back at the pioneers who helped diversify their department.

A new video highlights the history of African-Americans and the struggle they endured to be represented on the police force.

The video looks at the trailblazers and current officers who paved the way.

MPD hired its first black officer years before cities like New York and St. Paul integrated their departments. Mack Brady was hired in 1881 after fighting in the Civil War.

During that era, there were never more than two black officers working in Minneapolis at one time.

"For the first 75 to 100 years they were invisible. They were there, they were necessary to deal with the 'colored problem,' if you will, control the colored area," said Ron Edwards.

Historian Ron Edwards was a driving force behind the production of the historical look at the black experience in the department.

"Up until about maybe the 1930s, African-American or negro officers were not allowed to arrest white citizens. They would have to call for a white officers," Edwards said.

For black officers today, this history was taught to them by those who came before.

"I know these were the guys who were our mentors," said Commander Gerald Moore.

Commander Gerald Moore is in charge of recruiting at MPD.

"Where we are now, we should have been there ten years after I started," said Commander Moore.

During his 33 years in the department, he says he has seen change, but more is needed. Currently there are 850 officers in MPD -- 70 are African American.

The video pays homage to those who broke through the barriers.

Bill Jones became the department's first black deputy chief in 1994. Valerie Worster also held that position.

Today, Medario Arrandondo is the city's only black deputy chief.

"How do we change the narrative? How do we look at this as an honorable profession, one that certainly needs them to be a part of this organization, and one that has a future for them," said Medario Arrandondo.

"The department was being trusted by the community, especially the black community, and now it seems that tide is turned and there is a lack of trust, and it's not because of what we have done as a department, it's because of what's going on nationally," said Sergeant Charlie Adams.

Adams has worn the uniform for 30 years. He says the killing of unarmed black men by police has challenged the relationship between black officers and the black community.

Adams, Arrandondo and Moore say fixing that relationship is one of their biggest challenges.

"We have to have an honest conversation and I don't think we are doing that. We're not having an honest conversation with ourselves about how we deal with one another, and we have to do it in a respectful manner," said Moore.

Moore was talking about the protest outside the Fourth Precinct. He said this type of behavior makes it hard for him to recruit from the black community.

"Black deputy chiefs, black inspectors, lieutenants, sergeants, people in kind of keyareas within the department. That's a really good thing for the community," Adams said.

Since 2013, MPD has seen an 11 percent increase in the number of hires of color. It hopes to do more, especially when it comes to hiring black females.

MPD's Black History video can be seen here.

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