When she’s not leading the Minneapolis Police Department, Chief Janee Harteau teaches a night class designed to help current and prospective officers about how to better understand the different communities they interact with, reports Minnesota Public Radio. Policing, she says, is mostly about interacting with people. Sometimes that involves responding to dangerous situations, but it also means understanding communities that often differ demographically from the officer.
The class at St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis starts with a range of questions from Harteau, who has a master’s degree in public safety administration from St. Mary’s. Where are you from? How many siblings do you have? Have you ever voted for a contestant on American Idol? Harteau is not just trying to get to know her students better, she’s illustrating a point central to the focus of her class: Demographic Influences on Policing. “My focus is to not give them answers as much as to get them to ask better questions and from a different lens — a different frame of reference,” she said. Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said many cities are Minneapolis, with a large proportion of police officers who are white, middle class and suburban.