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

• • •

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).

These words are from someone who helped lead education policy for a Bush administration that advocated standardized testing as the primary means of assessing students, teachers and schools. Ravitch has also been speaking out against President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan due to their more surreptitious continuation of Bush-era policies.

It’s also difficult to believe that the Minneapolis public schools’ director of research and assessment would rely on “data points” to discern whether or not a student is “engaged in school” or “how much they enjoy school.” Apparently, parents and teachers are the last ones to know.

We need to stop quantifying our kids. Teachers possess limited power, so I hope parents, community members and especially officeholders will take a closer look at this national crisis in education and find some solutions before we’re all data-driven crazy.

David Rathbun, Minneapolis


The writer is a teacher at South High School in Minneapolis.



Ideas, not structure, should drive a party

Kudos to the Star Tribune Editorial Board for so clearly endorsing ranked-choice voting (April 28) and for pointing out the reason that the entrenched Democratic political establishment is sometimes against it. As a longtime Democrat who has never voted Republican, I am always disappointed with Democratic Party leaders who fear that RCV will weaken the party. The strength of the party should be based on our ideas, not on how well the party insiders control the ranks. If we truly have faith in our ideas and in the quality of our candidates, we will let the people show which candidates they like best, which they like second best and which they like third.

Larry LaVercombe, Minneapolis



Lessons are crucial, as is access to them

My heart goes out to the two families who recently lost their sons in pool drowning accidents. I believe these tragedies highlight yet another opportunity gap in our community. Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent among very young children, according to USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport.

I grew up on one of Minnesota’s lakes and learned about water safety at an early age. When I had my own two children, I was determined to ensure that both became proficient swimmers at a young age. I feel very fortunate that not only has my family had easy access to pools and swim teams, but we were able to pay the associated fees. If we can save one life from drowning by providing free and easy access to swimming lessons in our community pools and lakes, wouldn’t it would be worth it?

Andie Schieffert, Edina