November 5, 2008 at 12:00 p.m.
Human Relations Commission Regular Meeting
City Commission Chambers, Fargo City Hall
1. Welcome and Introductions
2. Approval of Agenda
3. Approval of Minutes
Mitch Marr – ND Human Rights Coalition Update
Hate Crime Prevention and Response Plan Meeting
Update on Youth Position
Budget Committee Schedule
Current Initiatives/Activities of the Fargo ACLU – Jennifer Ring to Present
7. Funding Requests
Hjemkomst Center Homelessness Photo Exhibit
8. Public Comment (12:30)
9. Other Business not Listed on the Agenda
Upcoming state GLBT Legislation-Mitch
BOARD OF HUMAN RELATIONS COMMISSIONERS
Regular Meeting: Wednesday: November 5, 2008:
The Regular Meeting of the Board of Human Relations Commissioners of the City of Fargo, North Dakota, was held in the City Commission Room at City Hall at 12:00 o’clock p.m., Wednesday, November 5, 2008.
The Human Relations Commissioners present or absent were as follows:
Present: Prairie Rose, Yoke Sim Gunaratne, Lori Brownshield, Amy Jacobson, Hatem Nour
Absent: Joy Rice, Mitch Marr, Fowzia Adde, Joshua Boschee
Chair Prairie Rose called the meeting to order.
Item 1. Welcome and Introductions
(12:00 p.m.) All Members stated their names and were welcomed to the meeting.
Item 2. Approval of Agenda
Chair Prairie Rose moved to amend the agenda to add discussion on two Forum articles and follow-up on a press conference held recently. She also moved to postpone the discussion on the youth position until the next working meeting due to time constraints.
Mr. Nour moved to approve the agenda as amended. Second by Ms. Gunaratne. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Item 3. Approval of Minutes: Regular Meeting of September 3, 2008
(12:01 p.m.) Ms. Jacobson moved to approve the minutes of the September 3, 2008 meeting as presented. Second by Ms. Brownshield. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Item 4. Announcements
Mr. Bailly provided to the Members, a letter written by Chair Prairie Rose in response to the paid distribution of a DVD titled, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” produced by the Clarion Fund.
Mr. Bailly announced African Soul, American Heart will present a photo show by Deb Dawson. He stated the event will be held at the Cyrus Running Gallery at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, November 5 through December 19, 2008. He added the documentary premiere is scheduled for November 9, 2008 at the Fargo Theatre with showings at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Mr. Bailly added the Hate Crime Prevention meeting will be held Monday, November 17, 2008 at 3:00 p.m. in the River Room, Fargo City Hall. He stated individuals interested in attending may do so and extended an invitation to the Moorhead Human Rights Commission and the Fargo Police Department as well.
Item 5. Discussion
Chair Prairie Rose stated the Budget Committee has finalized the sponsorship request process and clarified that all requests, except the Martin Luther King Event, need to submit an application yearly.
Item 6. Presentation
Jennifer Ring, North Dakota American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Executive Director, spoke to the Commission about what the organization does and what they are working on. She stated the ACLU covers the Bill of Rights, focuses on racial discrimination, not racial hatred, but government discrimination based on the common beliefs of government officials. She stated racial discrimination is wrong and has enormous effects on police, civilians, and the community. She stated the ACLU is researching the behavior of the Fargo Police Department and would like to present the findings when ready. As of now, she said, the availability of and the thoughts of an academic expert will determine if enough data is present and valid for a study.
In response to a question posed by Ms. Brownshield, Ms. Ring stated there is not enough data collected at this time. She stated the ACLU has employed a data entry clerk and has concerns about what community members say is happening.
Ms. Ring emphasized that those of middle Eastern decent and the protected class of college students have regularly voiced concern about law enforcement and the criminal justice system. She stated, particularly Muslim community members stress religious freedom concerns. She added ignorance is at play. With increased immigrants in the area, there have been repeated requests for translators, said Ms. Ring. She stated justice system interactions require higher understanding of languages. For example, she noted, not all Arabic is the same Arabic.
Ms. Ring suggested the Commission investigate the behaviors of the Fargo Police Department and come up with structures to file complaints against a police officer and forward those complaints to someone who is not a police officer. The goal, she stated, is to discourage officers from investigating themselves. This is necessary, she said, to obtain a real perception and true citizen review of the investigation and to build and verify trust. She also suggested training law enforcement on languages, culture, and religion. She added, a list could be put together for jailers referencing what needs to be provided to inmates in relation to their religious beliefs so one does not deny someone’s practices. A list of community religious authorities could also be developed so personnel can carry out actions with competency.
Ms. Gunaratne questioned whether recommendations would be listed in the report.
Ms. Ring replied the report regarding police conduct will contain recommendations in addition to a section on religion.
Ms. Gunaratne questioned whether there is a mandate that states law enforcement personnel need to provide translators if an individual interacting with law enforcement encounters language barriers.
Ms. Ring answered, there is no mandate. There is a requirement, she added, for translators in judicial cases.
Ms. Gunaratne questioned if the ACLU was aware of the Metro Interpreters Resource Center. She stated police have been informed this resource exists.
Mr. Nour questioned whether the ACLU has access to the complaints brought to the Human Relations Commission.
Ms. Ring answered, yes, if they are open records. She stated she is not clear if law enforcement complaints are open to the public. More so than receiving complaints, she said it is the presence of patterns of complaints that arouse scrutiny.
Item 7. Funding Requests
Chair Prairie Rose requested to table the sponsorship application request from Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center until the Commission receives a response from the Forum.
Mr. Bailly stated he will forward the information to the Budget Committee for review.
Item 8. Other Business
Chair Prairie Rose stated a letter was written to the Forum criticizing the motion to dismiss the press conference. She questioned whether the Commission should make a response.
Mr. Nour answered the Commission can respond why the press conference was dismissed and to shed light on what brought the issue to the Commission’s attention.
Chair Prairie Rose clarified the Somolian community came to the Commission saying an individual was assaulted in October, claiming it was a hate crime based on refugee status. She said a conference was organized with City staff, the Police Department, and the City Commission to describe the incident. She asked the commission to bring it to the public’s attention. Chair Prairie Rose called Police Chief, Keith Ternes, in regards to the status of the situation. Chief Ternes replied the Police Department was looking into the issue but that City Commissioners were not ready to label it a hate crime.
City Administrator Pat Zavoral recommended not going forward with the press conference due to lack of conclusive information. Chair Prairie Rose stated Human Relations Members support the Fargo Police Department’s decision to investigate further, but do not tolerate the behavior. The role of the Commission and response plan for hate crimes was discussed and remains a big concern, said Chair Prairie Rose. It is important, she stated, to not misrepresent issues in the community.
Mr. Nour stated the Commission needs to take some action as long as there is enough information to move forward.
Ms. Gunaratne responded that the meeting opened up dialogue and reminded members to establish hate crime response planning.
Item 9. Public Comment
Michael Huynh, Fargo resident, requested to have a letter drafted for him to present to the City Commission. Chair Prairie Rose stated a letter has not been written to Legal Services as verification of legalities is still underway.
Mr. Huynh questioned whether members were truly concerned. He stated he has been a victim of a hate crime and is still looking to the Commission for peace and resolution.
After discussion, Chair Prairie Rose stated she will have a letter drafted by the end of the week.
Sheri McMahon, Fargo resident, stated she has been assisting Mr. Huynh write letters and has seen Mr. Huynh’s video footage. She also added her vehicle was parked in an apartment lot and searched by Fargo Police. She said neighbors stated they saw two officers and confirmed that all doors on the vehicle were open, yet there are no dispatch records of the occurrence, no notification was given to her of Police searching her car, and she finds this discouraging. She feels this was without warrant and without cause. She stated Police know that Mr. Huynh lives in the same apartment building and has been under watch.
Ms. Gunaratne questioned whether Ms. McMahon has spoken to Ms. Ring regarding the situation.
Ms. McMahon stated no contact has yet been made.
Mr. Huynh stated he wrote a letter to the City Commission to which Mayor Walaker responded, stating there is nothing that can be done. Mayor Walaker reiterated the Human Relations Commission is charged with handling these cases.
In response to questions regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Mr. Bailly said questions are being addressed.
Leon Francis, Fargo resident, questioned what the statute for hate crime is in North Dakota.
Chair Prairie Rose stated, there is no statute for hate crimes in North Dakota, but added there are three on assaults. She said she is hoping this next legislature will add protected classes and address hate crime. She stated there is a movement with the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition and UND to draft legislation.
Mr. Francis stated he finds that problematic since City police officers perpetuate crimes in Fargo.
Ms. Brownshield stated individuals will have the opportunity to be involved in and give testimony for upcoming legislation.
Mr. Francis stated community member’s cases have not been resolved.
Mr. Bailly will check with Mr. Huynh to discuss showing the video footage at the next Executive Committee meeting.
Continuation of Item 8 Other Business (following Public Comment)
Chair Prairie Rose stated Mitch Marr will discuss, at a later time, the request to have Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgenders be recognized as a protected class.
Ms. Brownshield stated anyone interested in getting involved can contact Mr. Marr.
Chair Prairie Rose announced it is American Heritage month and North Dakota State University or Minnesota State University Moorhead can be contacted for more information.
Item 10. Adjourn
The time at adjournment was 12:53 o’clock p.m.