I received this message from a resident who was checking out my website HegerforSheriff.com. The resident had some great questions and I thought others may have the same questions so in an effort to remain transparent I made the decision to answer them publicly. Please note, the email was copied exactly as it was received.
1. Carver County in general, and the Chaska community specifically, is fortunate to have a diverse population that includes many Hispanic people and business owners. However, with recent national events, there is a lot of fear over ICE’s enforcement tactics. Carver County has an agreement with ICE. Can you explain what you think are and are not appropriate ways for the sheriff’s department to work with ICE, and how that relationship should evolve or change to continue building trust with the Hispanic community? Additionally, the Chaska police department responded swiftly to an officer years ago who was proven by an independent investigation to act in a discriminatory and hostile way toward the Hispanic community - can we expect your sheriff’s department will be held to the same accountability?
2. While Carver County has not been affected by many instances of use of force that have led to unarmed citizens dying, it is critical this remains so. What training do you think is necessary for the sheriff’s department to continue this pattern in order to develop trust with citizens of color who, due to instances in other areas of the state and nation, may have a reasonable sense of fear for law enforcement?
3. What are specific actions you think are appropriate for the sheriff’s department to take to ensure school safety as school shootings continue to rise - both directly in schools, and indirectly by ensuring people who should not have guns in our county are unable to obtain them? What role does the Sheriff’s department play in working with the FBI when it comes to keeping guns from non-law abiding citizens, and does the sheriff's department have an ability to make an impact in school safety, from your perspective?
I am currently a police officer for the City of Hopkins and have been there for almost 12 years. In that time I have been a patrol officer, school resource officer / investigator (still currently in this position), over saw our cadet hiring process, am an integral part of our Community Outreach and Relationship Enhancement (CORE), have talked to schools and businesses (Cargill) about active threat response, worked with our domestic abuse shelter, Sojourner, to teach the women how to further keep themselves safe and many other things.
In regard to the City of Hopkins, it is 4.4 square miles, has approximately 19,000 people, 65% of the housing is rental, and over 45 different languages are spoke in the city. To say the least, Hopkins is extremely diverse. This is the background I am coming from and I thought it was important to provide you that foundation as I believe it is very relevant to the questions you asked.
1. The agreement the sheriff’s office has with ICE is income generating and brings in approximately $6 million in revenue. I don’t support the sheriff’s office assisting ICE with raids on businesses or other entities should it be requested. If being held by ICE it should be that you have been charged with a crime. There are many people who have entered the United States illegally to work hard and provide better a better life for their family. When children are separated from their parents, this is detrimental to the child.
One of the things we did in Hopkins shortly after President Trump took office was to hold a town hall meeting for the hispanics in the community. It gave them the opportunity to ask questions and help calm their fears. In times like these it is so important to connect with our community and I would welcome the opportunity to host such an event in Carver County and would ask the Chaska Police Department to partner with us.
I can assure you that the Carver County deputies would be held to the same standard as was the case with the Chaska officer. If something like that was brought to my attention the deputy would be placed on leave and an investigation would commence immediately. This is also why I believe it is so important to have cameras in the squad cars. I have had dealings with many people from many different countries and have formed some amazing relationships based on mutual respect for each other. I would expect the deputies to do the same and treat everyone with respect and dignity no matter the situation. In short, profiling or disrespectful behavior would not be tolerated.
2. Community outreach is so important. I don’t want to tell you about myself again but I would like to share a story. I started a girls empowerment group due to a group of girls who were causing a lot of problems in school. The majority of girls were girls of color to include Black, Hispanic and Somali. One of the girls was extremely challenging and there were times I was toe to toe with her because of her behavior. After that school year she moved to Chicago and then to Atlanta, this was 4 years ago. Unexpectedly, in the summer of 2017, I received a voicemail from this same girl asking to have lunch with me as she was in Minnesota visiting family. I bought her lunch and we talked, a lot! Summer was coming to a close and she was heading back to Atlanta but yet she again called asking to see me. We met for frozen yogurt and hugged out goodbyes. We kept in touch through text and phone throughout the year. This spring I got a phone message from her saying she really needed to talk to me and to call her ASAP. I phoned her and she told me she had got into a fight with the co-worker and had to go to the police station. We talked about her decision, how to make better decisions and about owning your behavior. The media has us believing in the tension between law enforcement and communities of color and yet here I was on the phone with a black female, who was in trouble with the police and the second person she called after calling her dad was me. She came to Hopkins again this summer and we had lunch when she came and lunch when she left to start her senior year of high school in Atlanta. We talked about her after high school plans (she is thinking about the military) and as we were parting she said, “ Officer Jessica, remember you said you would help us with college scholarships if we went.” I assured her she still had that promise that I made to her when she was a 12 year old causing a lot of trouble in school. I tell that story because those types of stories to me are the backbone of so many community outreach events. I want us to do Cops n Kids Shopping events, I want to take kids fishing and teach them to love the outdoors….. this is where relationships are built with everyone in the community including the communities of color.
I also believe it is important to have your department reflect those in your community. I will work hard to have Carver County attract diverse candidates.
3. As a school resource officer school safety is a top priority for me. While the schools do not have the funds to put an officer in every school (and the sheriff’s office does not have the staffing to do so - I would love to discuss this further with you if you would like) there are many things we can do with the staff we have. Some of my ideas are proactive outreach in which deputies stop by the schools in their contract cities and have lunch with kids, play a game of kickball at recess or read a book in a classroom. This provides security to the schools while building the relationships that are so important as mentioned in #2. What this also does is make it unpredictable for someone thinking about doing something at the school as they won’t know when the officer may be there or stopping by.
I also want to collaborate on training with the schools and our surrounding agencies. I hope something like this never happens but if it does I want us to be as prepared as we can be should anything like this happen at our schools, churches, businesses, etc.
I believe we should be part of the safety planning process in the schools. Law enforcement input in regard to school safety is imperative. As I tell the teachers when I teach active threat training, teachers brains aren’t wired to think about these things and that is where we come in to help your brain go where it doesn’t want to but where it needs to go because of the things happening in our world.
In regards to firearms. Like anything illegal, people would still find a way to obtain them. It is the sheriff’s office responsibility to make sure they are throughly backgrounding those requesting permits to purchase and carry. There was an incident in which a Watertown man who killed his mother was able to acquire firearms legally. You can check out this article for further information http://www.herald-journal.com/archives/2013/stories/gun-charges.html . As for the school reference in the article, we need to tell them we need to be part of the safety planning not "continue to work with the school district to the extent they want us involved in helping them plan for security-preparedness sorts of things" as we are the ones responding and in the end responsible to protect life and property at the school. I currently serve as 1 of 7 people on a security assessment teach for several of the schools I cover and I am frequently asked for my input on things in regard to school safety. I also discuss weaknesses or where I see change is needed.