The mother of a shooting victim says de-escalation techniques are lacking. A former police chief argues the opposite.
To just what degree is de-escalation used?
The April 23 headline about police shootings (“83 shootings, 82 exonerations”) prompts me to write. As the mother of one of those shooting victims, I wholeheartedly agree with attorney Jim Behrenbrinker’s statement — “if there has only been one unjustified case, that in and of itself raises red flags.”
My son was a vulnerable adult who died as the result of a 911 mental-health crisis call. I will not debate the case, but I urge every police department to get training in de-escalation techniques in dealing with people in mental crises. This benefits everyone: Each of us faces a 20 percent to 25 percent chance of having a mental-health problem in our lifetime. Indeed, the state mental health ombudsman’s office reviewed Jeff’s death and recommended that Richfield police “look into the provision of Crisis Intervention Training for its officers.” I don’t believe this has happened. Why not?
The police pattern of aggression, and the resulting loss of lives, troubles me. Please urge those in your community to develop crisis intervention and de-escalation skills. I don’t want your loved one to be the next police shooting statistic.
Beckie O’Connor, Richfield
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The article could have just as easily been about the amazingly small number of times that police officers in Minnesota actually employ deadly force. During the 10-year period studied by the Star Tribune, police officers in Minnesota resolved many thousands of high-risk situations through the use of good training and tactics.
A very small percentage of officers will ever use deadly force during their career, but nearly every officer will face deadly-force decisions on multiple occasions in a normal career. Thankfully, in the overwhelming majority of these incidents, the suspect will choose to comply with the efforts of law enforcement to de-escalate the situation, and the threat will pass. In a small number of situations, the suspect will not submit to legal authority and will force a decision upon the officer.
The situations that lead to deadly-force decisions are by nature rapidly evolving and pose a very high risk to the officers and public. We should never forget that our police officers are placed in these situations on our behalf and have seconds to make decisions that the legal system may struggle with for years.
Kent Therkelsen, Eagan
The writer, now retired, is a former Eagan police chief.
The backlash is both warranted, supported
A few weeks ago, Diane Ravitch — author, research professor at New York University and director of Network for Public Education — said during a lecture at Syracuse University: “I’m not opposed to testing, although I think every parent should opt out of testing these days. … The [state] tests are utterly useless and they should all be boycotted” (syracuse.com).
Her words were followed by enthusiastic applause. Many students and teachers at Minneapolis’ South High School and other places would stand and applaud, too (“Backlash against tests gains new momentum,” April 26).
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.