Months before the shooting death of Todd Lorne Banks, Jr. in downtown Rochester in the early morning hours of June 6, an idea was formed for a Community Engagement Response Team that would be led by Community Liaison, William “Bud” Whitehorn.

While CERT is a new approach to public safety and community engagement in Rochester, it is not a new concept for Andre Crockett. Early in his career as a social worker in Rochester, he developed the Playground All Stars program for Riverside and Gage elementary schools to reduce the suspension rate in Rochester Public Schools, one of the highest in Minnesota at the time.

Crockett found that elementary-age writeups happened primarily on the playground. The playground monitors were there to address problems after they happened, not prevent conflicts. As part of the Playground All Stars program, community volunteers worked with the paraprofessionals and students to develop relationship and conflict resolution skills. Writeups were reduced 40% on program days. The same concepts are being used with the CERT and Rochester police.

A common misperception is that CERT is just downtown for Black people. According to Crockett, community wide, people think it is just a Black issue. White people do not traditionally give to Black led organizations in Rochester. He was told he should “have someone white lead to be able to get the resources.”

Steve Lange recently sat in on several of the conversations between Whitehorn, Crockett, and the Rochester Police Department. Lange said, “If you take a look at what Andre and Bud are doing, you’ll want to be involved, volunteer, and donate. The plan is about building everyone up, it’s about Rochester, it’s about humankind.”

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For more on the obstacles Crockett faced, the impact his work is having in Rochester and how to become involved, listen to our podcast, The Other Side of the Table, episode #12 Andre Crockett and Steve Lange (Part 2.)