The June 4 commentary “In traffic, friendly wave can be fatal” has a different message from mine and was imprecise about the law, so I’ll write to the driver in question.
Dear Considerate Driver,
Thank you for stopping for me to cross and for your wave. You may recall my waving thanks to you. We need more friendly communication in traffic. Ironically, I wasn’t really ready to cross, but apparently I looked ready, so I crossed anyway. Clearly, you were trying to do the right thing, and that should be encouraged.
I also have to confess that I didn’t cross because of your wave, but because, in my judgment, you were stopping for me. I’m not confused by drivers’ incidental hand motions.
Don’t worry about that black sedan in the second lane that roared by. Following Minnesota Statute 169.21 (and common sense), I don’t walk in front of cars that aren’t stopping, but, to be clear, that sedan driver didn’t have the right of way. He, seeing you stop at the crosswalk, was prohibited by law (also Minnesota Statute 169.21) from passing until he first determined that there was no pedestrian involved — an all-too-common violation. Even if he couldn’t see me, he was required to stop.
If someday you see me waiting to cross midblock, cars there do have the right of way. If you stop and wave me on, I’ll check for other traffic, then proceed, thanking you for your generosity, but it might be safer for you not to do that. Other traffic doesn’t expect you to stop there.
John Kaplan, St. Paul
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Thank you for publishing the excellent, informative June 4 commentary about traffic safety. I would like to make one addition: As a runner, walker, etc., if you do not wish to cross the street, do not stand at the edge of the street gazing off into the distance; stop a reasonable distance back from the edge of the road and rest until you are ready to cross. To send a very clear message, face away from the road. Then misguided drivers will not put you and others at risk.
Jim Strand, Plymouth
SHOOTINGS AND THE MENTALLY ILL
Families are, and must be, the first line of defense
Too often I have read about the mentally ill raising weapons during a police presence and the ill person is shot and killed. Too often the police are blamed for the death. In the case of Jeff O’Connor (“Loss stirs an answer”), who held his aunt hostage with a 12-inch butcher knife, the parents and police tried everything first, including Taser. Nothing worked. Too often the mentally ill go off their medications and cannot keep the illness at bay. Perhaps Ms. O’Connor or the psychiatrist should have had her son committed when she noticed he was getting worse. Or could she have forced him to take his meds? She is convinced her son would be alive if police had been trained properly — i.e., listening and empathizing, but she tried this herself and failed.
Family is the front line of protection for the mentally ill. When that fails, the consequences can be fatal. Delusion does not deal well with reasoning. The police are not to blame.
Michelle Peterson, Plymouth
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The article on the police handling of mental health calls is very important in the ongoing discussion of these often-tragic events. The story recalled my shock at the death of Barbara Schneider in 2000, though only as a resident of the Uptown area of Minneapolis at the time. My job had provided me many friendly acquaintances with law officers, for whom I have the highest regard and admiration. It was troubling to me that the often big, physically conditioned officers so often just seem to use firearms in these encounters. Why couldn’t the law officers be equipped with a helmet, a small Plexiglas shield and a baton with which to subdue the troubled person alive while warding off a knife? Basically, adapted crowd-control tactics?
George R. Velazquez, Elk River
POLICE SHOOTINGS IN GENERAL
Minnesota’s video law is out of step — with Chicago, of all places
You don’t expect Chicago police to be trendsetters for public policy. But they invoked a change in the right direction, while Minnesota has stepped backward.
Chicago on June 3 rolled out “a new policy to release video of shootings by police within 60 days of most incidents,” according to the Chicago Tribune. “The new policy appears to make Chicago the largest city in the nation to have any kind of official rules for releasing videos of police excessive force incidents,” the Tribune reported. It added: “The public’s ability to view the videos, though possibly troubling and tough for families and officers alike, could be a game-changer for police departments across the country, particularly in Chicago, said Jonathan Smith, the former head of special litigation at the U.S. Department of Justice.”
The move came too late to be a game-changer for Minnesota, where, three days earlier, Minnesota Gov. Dayton signed what’s been dubbed a “police secrecy bill.” It allows the public to see body-camera footage only if an officer in it causes someone “substantial bodily harm” — and, as James Eli Shiffer reported in his “Full Disclosure” column, “only once the investigation is over, meaning the police now have the ability to withhold the video for months.”
All other video will be nonpublic — with one minor exception: The law lets anyone in a nonpublic video watch it and choose to make it public, after active investigations are done, and after anyone in the video who doesn’t want to be seen — other than a police officer — gets an option to blur their image.
Minnesotans deserve better. The Legislature should revisit this bill and help make police in Minnesota as accountable as those in Chicago.
Hal Davis, Minneapolis
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In a June 5 letter regarding police shootings impacted by population, the writer implies that violence by gun is reduced in Iceland because of its “bitter cold weather.” She should probably read the Icelandic Sagas: death, poison, infighting, murder, rape, pillage, familial betrayal — granted, no semiautomatics, but crime to rival any epic!
Cheryl Frarck, Kasson, Minn.
THE POLICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Though it’s worse elsewhere, there’s a global theme in play
Recently you have probably seen a lot on the news about human rights, from Black Lives Matter right here in Minnesota to Syrian refugees. However, there are way more human-rights violations than these around the globe.
In Brazil, they range from 2,200 police-brutality deaths to more than 230,000 children serving in crowded prisons. Cities like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo have tried to improve the police forces, however, the situations have not improved much. Police will often torture inmates for information — this has been going on since the 1960s when Brazil was ruled by the military. Though Brazil is a good country, it is still not the safest for people’s rights. This needs to stop. Write letters to the government or letters to people in jails. Get involved, and we can stop this violation of human rights. Not only can we stop it in Brazil, but we can stop it in Syria, Russia, Bangaladesh and, most important, right here in the U.S.
Jeremy Trunk, Plymouth