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Join MCTC for a Celebration of Law Enforcement Instructor Debbie Montgomery Oct. 5

Posted on: September 22nd, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Debbie Montgomery, MCTCTrailblazer, community leader, politician, senior commander and Minneapolis Community and Technical College Law Enforcement instructor—that’s part of Debbie Montgomery’s story.

Debbie is honored to share her wisdom from her career as the first female, as well as the first African American female, St. Paul City police officer. Montgomery was also the youngest member ever elected to the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Recently a street segment in St. Paul was named after her.

Please join us for a gathering at which she will share with some of the highlights of her career. Drawing upon her experience, Montgomery also will offer some insights and reflections into the growing rift between police and communities of color.

  • Monday, Oct. 5
  • 1–2 p.m.
  • L.3100

MCTC to Host ”Race in America” Photo Exhibit With Civil Rights Leader as Guest of Honor

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Race in America photoFormer students from MCTC’s Race in America: Then and Now course collaborated to host an exhibit of photography from the summer civil rights course over years past. The exhibit, a prominent feature in this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at the College, runs until Saturday, Jan. 31. A closing ceremony will take place this day from 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m. in the T Skyway, featuring a guest of honor who helped shape the civil rights movement.

The course, offered through the Higher Education Consortium of Urban Affairs (HECUA) and taught by MCTC Political Science Faculty Lena Jones, gives students the opportunity to travel to the southern United States to meet civil rights Movement leaders, visit historical civil rights sights and make connections between past and present struggles for justice and equality. MCTC is a member of the HECUA consortium and the MCTC Foundation generously awards scholarships to MCTC students taking part in the course.

The reception will feature singing, storytelling, discussions, reflections and an esteemed guest of honor: civil rights leader Hollis Watkins. Watkins has been immersed in the struggle for racial and economic justice for over 50 years. He was the first Mississippi student to become involved in 1961 in the Mississippi Voting Rights Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and since then, has co-founded several organizations including the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Southern Echo, an organization dedicated to providing leadership development, technical assistance, and training to grassroots organizations across the south and southwestern US.

The day’s events will take place as follows:

  • 10:30–11:00 a.m.—Reception Opens (T Skyway)
  • 11 a.m.–noon—The Civil Rights Movement Through Song: Singing and storytelling with Mr. Hollis Watkins (T Skyway)
  • 12:30–2 p.m.—Organizing and Movement Building: Past and Present: A Discussion with Mr. Hollis Watkins [Location To Be Determined]
  • 2:15–3 p.m.—Closing reflections and song with Mr. Hollis Watkins and contributors to the Race in America, Then and Now photo exhibit (T Skyway)

MCTC Hosts “Race in America” Photo Exhibit Reception with Guest of Honor

Posted on: January 27th, 2015 by insidemctc No Comments

Race in America signFormer students from MCTC’s Race in America: Then and Now course collaborated to host an exhibit of photography from the summer civil rights course over years past. The exhibit, a prominent feature in this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at the College, runs until Saturday, Jan. 31. A closing ceremony will take place this day from 10:30 a.m.–3 p.m. in the T Skyway, featuring a guest of honor who helped shape the civil rights movement.

The course, offered through the Higher Education Consortium of Urban Affairs (HECUA) and taught by MCTC Political Science Faculty Lena Jones, gives students the opportunity to travel to the southern United States to meet civil rights Movement leaders, visit historical civil rights sights and make connections between past and present struggles for justice and equality. MCTC is a member of the HECUA consortium and the MCTC Foundation generously awards scholarships to MCTC students taking part in the course.

The reception will feature singing, storytelling, discussions, reflections and an esteemed guest of honor: civil rights leader Hollis Watkins. Watkins has been immersed in the struggle for racial and economic justice for over 50 years. He was the first Mississippi student to become involved in 1961 in the Mississippi Voting Rights Project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and since then, has co-founded several organizations including the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement and Southern Echo, an organization dedicated to providing leadership development, technical assistance, and training to grassroots organizations across the south and southwestern U.S.

Deborah Montgomery: Civil Rights Activist and MCTC Faculty

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments
Deborah, MCTC faculty

Deborah with a copy of the May 9, 1976 Pioneer Press.

When Deborah received a call from the Saint Paul mayor in 1974, she was working as a city planner. The last thing she expected to do with her career was become a police officer.

Forty years later, she’s a retired officer with two masters’ degrees, four adult children, countless awards for her groundbreaking work, and she holds the distinct honor of having been the first female police officer on the Saint Paul police force. Now, she’s teaching the next generation of law enforcement officers at MCTC.

Even before joining the police force, Deborah’s career was impressive. She grew up during an era of civil rights activism and became the youngest person ever elected to the National Board of Directors of the NAACP at age 17—a position she held for six years. She participated in the 1963 March on Washington, D.C. with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and joined King again two years later in a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. to advocate for voters’ rights.

In 1974 she was working as a city planner when the mayor of Saint Paul asked her to take part in the first citywide effort to hire African American officers for the police force. Saint Paul had 600 police officers, and only four were African American. She agreed, though intended to return to her job as a city planner after trying out the training academy. “I had a master’s degree and a steady job,” said Deborah. “This was a favor for a friend.”

In 1975, the police department used the Westpoint Physical Agility Test as the bar for its upcoming officers. “To this day, I’m the only woman who competed against men—with men’s standards—and passed.” There were no uniforms for women and no separate locker rooms. Because most of the men in the training academy were six feet tall, Deborah worked with trainers to learn modified takedown techniques. Some colleagues accused her of taking a job away from a white man, saying she only received the job because she’s a black woman. “This was an era of very active civil rights activism,” said Deborah. “At the end of the academy, I realized that if I didn’t take a job, I would be seen as giving up, and future women who wanted to become officers may not have this opportunity.” Shortly thereafter, Deborah became the first female officer on patrol in the Saint Paul Police Department.

Deborah held her unexpected career as a police officer for 28 years. During that time she raised four children and went back to school at St. Thomas University. She became one of the first two people at the university to graduate with a master’s degree in police administration and police community education. “At that point, I was encouraged to consider teaching.”

Deborah arrived at MCTC in 2007 after teaching for 10 years at Century College. Now, due to legislative changes and a retiring workforce, “the next decade is crucial for the training of new law enforcement officers,” she said. Her course addresses ethics, theory and service learning, and requires 30 hours of volunteering with a culture “different from the one you grew up in.”

“As police officers, we become social workers, psychologists and human resources,” she said. “If you’ve got familiarity with a second language, you’re going to excel at your ability to get a job. The ability to communicate is crucial. Cultural competence is crucial.”

Deborah teaches her students to build relations, deal with conflict and navigate remediation as well as how to write a resume and practice interviewing skills. “I’ve networked with MCTC’s resources to make sure students are successful,” she said. “Ninety-eight percent of what police do is public relations. People call when they don’t understand the system, and they don’t know who else to call.”

Deborah’s work continues both inside and outside the classroom. For decades she has inspired local youth to pursue law enforcement, including three of her children, and more recently, the first Somali woman on the Saint Paul police force who has done her own groundbreaking a generation after Deborah.

Deborah’s extensive accomplishments have not gone unnoticed.

Last year she was awarded the Heritage Award by the International Association of Women Police, and traveled to South Africa to accept the award. Most recently, she received a distinct honor from the Saint Paul City Council: anyone who drives down Marshall Ave. from Lexington to Western—in Saint Paul’s historic Rondo Neighborhood—will travel a route now known as Deborah Gilbreath Montgomery Ave.

St. Paul Rondo Neighborhood Honors MCTC Law Enforcement Faculty Debbie Montgomery

Posted on: November 19th, 2014 by insidemctc No Comments
Debbie Montgomery

Debbie Montgomery holds a copy of a 1976 Pioneer Press story about her involvement on the St. Paul Police Force.

MCTC Law Enforcement Faculty Debbie Montgomery received a unique honor this week: The City of St. Paul named a stretch of Marshall Avenue, in the city’s historic Rondo neighborhood, after her. Read the story from the Pioneer Press here.

St. Paul honors Debbie Montgomery with street segment

The segment of Marshall Avenue between Lexington Parkway and Western Avenue soon will bear the name of a former St. Paul City Council member who grew up during the civil rights era and became the first female officer in the St. Paul Police Department.

On Wednesday, the council voted to approve a resolution co-naming the avenue after Debbie Gilbreath Montgomery. Council member Dai Thao, who sponsored the resolution, called her a “true pioneer of courage and leadership for the city of St. Paul.”

Montgomery, who attended the vote, expressed gratitude for the new street name in her honor and encouraged city leaders to embrace the growing diversity within St. Paul as important decisions are made.

“Our city is changing,” Montgomery told the council. “We have to be open. … We have to make sure that everyone is at the table — at the table when the initial discussions happen, not afterward.”

According to Dai Thao’s resolution, Montgomery was born in St. Paul’s historically black Rondo neighborhood in 1946, 12 years before the construction of Interstate 94 razed her home and cleaved the neighborhood in two.

In the late 1950s, she served as president of the St. Paul NAACP youth group, and at age 17 became the youngest person ever elected to the NAACP’s national board of directors.

The position allowed her an opportunity to rub elbows with Vice President Hubert Humphrey and march on Washington, D.C., in 1963 with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Two years later, she participated in a historic civil rights march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery, Ala.

Montgomery, who graduated from St. Paul’s Central High School, went on to earn two master’s degrees in urban planning and police administration. She became the first female police officer in the St. Paul Police Department in 1975, rising up the ranks from sergeant to senior commander.

Council member Dan Bostrom, a former St. Paul police sergeant, recalled serving alongside Montgomery on the force. He told the council not to be fooled by her calm demeanor, and remembered a time when she knocked a belligerent suspect unconscious.

“When you run into a bunch of drunks during St. Patrick’s Day, yeah, we’re talking about Jekyll and Hyde here,” said Bostrom, to widespread laughter.

Montgomery served as assistant commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety from 1991 to 1998 and was elected to the Ward 1 seat on the city council in 2004. She was unseated by Melvin Carter in the November 2007 election.

In 2008, she became an adjunct professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Montgomery was one of seven candidates who ran for the open Ward 1 seat on the council in November 2013. She finished in fourth place, with Dai Thao winning the seat.