News Ticker

New St. Paul Western Police District Sr. Commander Reaches Out to the Community

Bruce P. Corrie, PhD, Chai.News

About two weeks ago I received an email from Shari Gray introducing herself as the new Western District Police Senior Commander in Saint Paul and offering to be a resource as well as her desire to be connected to the community. I told her that in my many years in St. Paul, this was one of the few times an elected or public official in my neighborhood actually reached out to me to introduce themselves and to offer their support.

So I met Commander Gray over coffee at Golden Thyme Coffee and we exchanged notes. We talked about racial profiling and the need to build trust with the community. Immigrants are wary of law enforcement partially because many come from places where the law enforcement systems are corrupt and dangerous. Minorities have a negative historical experience with racial profiling. I told her about an African American professor friend of mine who told me he put his hands in clear sight on the steering wheel every time he was pulled over. A recent column  by Troubled Soul-19  in Chai.News, reviewed articles by youth in the Selby area of Saint Paul written for Young Voices newspaper in 1992 and compared recent sentiment on the topic. The author found not much has changed in police-community relations, especially as it related to African American youth.

Commander Gray shared her intent to develop strong community relationships and build capacity in community policing efforts. To this end she has been connecting with many people and organizations. She explored various community events and activities she could be part off to help develop relationships with the diverse communities of the Western Precinct.

Commander Gray met briefly with Mychael Wright, the owner of Golden Thyme Coffee shop to learn about his active community involvement and mentoring of youth entrepreneurs.

I spoke about my visit with Commander Gray with Debbie Montgomery who worked for a long time in law enforcement in Saint Paul and teaches law enforcement courses at Metro State University. She said, “Saint Paul has always had a community- policing identity. Beat officers are expected to know community people and organizations and develop strong relationships. This is what sets St. Paul police officers apart from other jurisdictions.”

Commander Gray has been with the police department for over twenty years, and worked several other command level positions including the Family & Sexual Violence Unit, Technology, Central District and the Internal Affairs Unit. She has wide area of experience and training including homeland security and has a Master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas and a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University.

Welcome Sr. Commander Shari Gray.