Agency News

Minneapolis Firms Reassure Employees in Wake of Daunte Wright Death

This article, written by Sabrina Sanchez, originally appeared on PRWeek and Campaign US.

 

Minneapolis-based agencies are bringing in resources to care for their teams with sensitivity after a police-involved shooting resulted in the death of another unarmed Black man, this time in the nearby city of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

 

Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter on Sunday, after he was stopped for driving with an expired license plate.

 

Since the news of Wright’s death circulated, leadership at Carmichael Lynch and Carmichael Lynch Relate sprung into action to support BIPOC employees and issued a statement on Twitter.

 

“The psychological and physiological reaction to the senseless murder of George Floyd and now Daunte Wright and the ongoing call for racial justice and equity has to be continually addressed and acknowledged,” says Carol Frazer Haynesworth, director of multicultural strategy and inclusion at Carmichael Lynch and Carmichael Lynch Relate, in an email. “When the news of Daunte Wright’s death came out on Sunday, we started planning activities for both the agency as a whole and for our African-American employees specifically.”

 

Starting on Monday, the agency has been holding “safe space” sessions, including with activist Nia Mapp-Alvarez, who was invited to share her experience and resources for how to advocate for justice.

 

Carmichael Lynch has also shared a list of links to donate and directly support Wright’s family, as well as resources for African-American employees to guide emotional conversations with friends and colleagues.

 

The agency’s multicultural employee resource group, Mosaic, has held check-ins and meetings with staffers daily and plans to bring in a psychologist next week to host sessions specifically with African-American employees. Employees have also been encouraged to take paid time-off as needed.

 

“The grief, anger and exhaustion that’s triggered every time an act of violence takes place brings up our own personal experiences,” Haynesworth explains. “The lived experiences of African-American employees at Carmichael Lynch are vastly different than those of our white colleagues.” 

 

Exponent PR is taking a similar approach.

 

Christine Fruechte, CEO at Colle McVoy and Exponent PR, says that since becoming aware of the fatal shooting, the agency has held one-on-one conversations with employees as well as group “safe space” conversations.

 

Agency leadership is also encouraging employees to “take time to be human, lean on each other and give people grace.”

 

“[We’re reminding] our staff and our clients that they need time to focus on their mental health and process these events with loved ones,” Fruechte says. “[We’re] encouraging people to take the time off that they need to process what’s happening around them and use our employee program hotline for anyone in their household that would like to be referred to a counselor.”

 

Last year, following the death of George Floyd, the agency allowed employees to choose a charity or community organization to raise funds for every week. For this incident, Fruechte says it is taking a similar approach.

 

“[Our employees] are given the freedom to express and process what’s going on in our community in the way that they see fit,” Fruechte says. “They also are empowered to work with leadership to identify businesses within our community where we can donate resources such as monetary or professional services to help them.”

 

Wright was killed after police attempted to arrest him during a traffic stop on Sunday. During the encounter, Wright got back in his car when a struggle ensued that resulted in Potter firing her weapon. The Brooklyn Center Police Department has since issued a statement saying that the officer meant to reach for her taser when she discharged her firearm.

 

Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and was released on bond.

 

Since Wright’s death, protests have ensued in Brooklyn Center and surrounding areas with dozens of arrests. Several communities imposed curfews this week.

 

Another complicating factor is that the police-involved shooting and resulting protests are taking place concurrently with the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with murdering Floyd nearly a year ago.

 

With tensions high, Matt Kucharski, president of Padilla, says his agency is approaching the situation with caution.

 

“Context is [important],” Kucharski says. “We’ve got the Derek Chauvin trial going on right now, so that is at the top of everybody’s mind; we have the stress of being in a pandemic for 14 months and we’ve got gun violence [and mass shootings] to add to that which puts what happened to Daunte [Wright] into a different context than it would have two years ago.”

 

He adds that as a result, public response to the situation will be different, and therefore companies should resist the urge to jump to a conclusion or put out a statement and instead wait for all of the information to emerge.

 

As a result of the events of the last year, Padilla developed a social issue scorecard that helps clients to score a social issue based on a number of factors to determine whether to respond. Kucharski says that in this situation, the agency has applied the tactic to clients and itself.

 

“In this case, it doesn’t make sense for us to make any external statement,” Kucharski says. “We don’t have anything to add to that conversation but to communicate to employees that we’re paying attention and we’re listening.”

 

“This is different from the George Floyd situation a year ago,” he adds. “It’s one where people are waiting for things to come to light.”

 

The agency has sent internal memos to employees recognizing the situation and advising employees to stay safe and tap into the company’s internal resources for support.

 

The situation is also a reminder there is still a lot of work to be done in the diversity and inclusion space, compounded by the rise in Anti-Asian hate crimes and the immigration crisis at the southern border.

 

“[What happened with Daunte Wright] is further evidence that these aren’t these aren’t isolated incidents,” Kucharski says. “[The industry] made tremendous recognition that some things need to be done differently following George Floyd, and we’ve spent the past year working on those. This just strengthens our resolve and reaffirms their need.”

 

“Following the murder of George Floyd, our agency, along with the industry as a whole, took a step back to more deeply examine our practices and behaviors related to race, leveling up practices and policies to be a better agent of change, progress and equity,” Haynesworth adds. “If anything, Daunte Wright’s death only strengthens that commitment.”

 

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