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Rights and responsibilities of community and police

Kathleen Moriarty and Columbia Heights Police Officers



Metro North ABE’s Adult Education Center- Columbia Heights/Fridley has a long-standing partnership with the local community-oriented policing department in Columbia Heights. For a number of years, officers have visited adult ESL and GED classes to answer questions that students have about policing, community safety, and local laws. In the past few years, it has become more visible that issues still remain across the country, with prominent cases of police brutality against people of color in the news. As a result, the rights and responsibilities of both the community and its police departments in creating safe communities are under discussion.


In December 2018, Columbia Heights Police Chief Lenny Austin approached ABE Program Supervisor, Kathleen Moriarty, to partner on enhanced programming centered on exploring the rights and responsibilities embedded in the US Constitution. The Columbia Heights Police Department wanted officers to revisit the core of what their role is in protecting the rights of community members. As always, Metro North ABE strives to create a stronger, more educated, and just community. The Adult Education Center- Columbia Heights/Fridley welcomed the opportunity to engage with local police officers to educate adult learners, especially immigrant learners, on their rights and responsibilities as outlined in the US Constitution. Practicing civil dialogues was included as a key component.


The Adult Education Center- Columbia Heights/Fridley is a good fit for such a project. The high intermediate ESL class is currently part of a federal Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE) grant. The focus on the US Constitution and building awareness of rights and responsibilities are in alignment with this grant, as well. 


We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. - Preamble to the US Constitution


The Rights and Responsibilities of Community and Police project was launched in spring 2021, with special funding from the Columbia Heights Library Foundation. We are grateful to include a third partner in the project the National Constitution Center.


The idea of training police officers on the US Constitution springboards from an offering of the National Constitution Center, Policing in a More Perfect Union. This training “... is designed to give police officer recruits a historical understanding of the constitutional rights and restrictions that are defined in the Bill of Rights. (The training) also examines the history of policing in a democratic society, and provides a forum for new officers to discuss the importance of their role in protecting the rights of all citizens.” Policing in a More Perfect Union Program


This innovative project partnership between the Adult Education Center- Columbia Heights/Fridley, the Columbia Heights Police Department, and the National Constitution Center was implemented in four initial phases: teachers and police officers received online training this past spring from the National Constitution Center on the Constitution and specific amendments to be taught (1st, 4th, 13th/14th/15th); teachers drafted a unit of instruction based on this information this summer; the team (five police officers and three ABE staff) traveled to Philadelphia in August to tour the National Constitution Center and receive additional training on conducting civil dialogues; and finally, the unit was implemented with adult learners in the fall of 2021, in partnership with the police officers.


The goal of the overall project is to educate Metro North ABE adult learners, (and ABE staff and Columbia Heights police officers) about their rights and responsibilities in the Constitution, the history and role of policing in our nation, and to practice civil dialogues to create a more engaged community.