Panel aims to stop violence against African American women

Rep. Ruth Richardson speaks about her proposed "red-flag" bill.
Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, speaks about a proposed "red-flag" bill during a House Public Safety Committee meeting in 2019. Richardson is the author of legislation that created the Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News 2019

Minnesota’s newly established Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women met Monday for the first time with a mission to advise the Commissioner of Public Safety and Minnesota Legislature on ways to reduce violence against African American women and girls by December 2022. 

The 12-member panel includes representatives from the courts, law enforcement and victim advocacy groups.

Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, the author of the legislation that created the panel, said it is the first task force in the nation to focus on violence against Black women. Richardson said the task force will look at many issues, including human trafficking, sexual exploitation and urban violence  

“We are going to leave this task force with a blueprint,” Richardson said. “A blueprint for change. A blueprint to bring Black women and girls back home. A blueprint to solve their crimes and to be able to ensure that everyone gets equal access to the services that they need when they need them.”

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The kickoff event at the Capri Theater in Minneapolis included a ceremonial bill signing by DFL Gov. Tim Walz. The task force funding was part of a larger budget bill enacted earlier this year.

“We are standing on the shoulders of giants who have been fighting this lonely battle by themselves in many cases,” Walz said. “Now we’re just trying to bring some more support — to try and listen to the people who know what needs to be done.”

Walz and others noted how crimes against African American women are disproportionately higher than other segments of the population.

Black women and girls accounted for 34 percent of all missing females in 2020, far higher than the percentage of Black women in the entire female population, according to the National Crime Information Center. 

The task force follows a similar effort in Minnesota directed at Native women.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said the work of the new task force is an opportunity to reduce violence against women across Minnesota.

“Together we have to understand why our sisters go missing, and that’s what this task force will help bring us to,” Harrington said.