It's been one week since the Star Tribune published a four-part series on Minnesota's failure to discipline police convicted of crimes by Jennifer Bjorhus and MaryJo Webster, which revealed that more than 140 Minnesota police officers are still on the job after being found guilty of serious offenses ranging from DWI to assault.
The stories received national attention, including a mention on CNN by Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery during a discussion on NFL protests and police misconduct:
On Friday, Nate Gove, head of the state's police oversight authority, the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, announced the agency is reviewing its standards of conduct for sworn officers and will consider expanding the list of crimes that trigger review for potential discipline.
The original stories received hundreds of comments from readers. Many expressed appreciation for bringing the issue to light, some shared their own personal experiences with the police, while many others criticized the Star Tribune for focusing on police misconduct. Here are some of the most interesting and insightful reader comments.
kkjer suggested police departments need to do a better job of adapting to citizens' changing expectations.
I was a police officer when the POST board was first started in the early 70's. My POST Board number is in the low 4 digits. I retired from law enforcement 26 years later in that time and up until today nothing has changed with police departments. After I left law enforcement I went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in Human Resources and went to work in the private sector. During that time I did consulting work for several Fortune 500 companies. The one thing that I saw in the private sector is that change management was always on the top of the list of all C level executives. Company structures changed with customer demand and customer satisfaction was always in the forefront. There were many changes that I often wished I had known about when I was cop. It dawned on me while reading this article nothing really has changed in law enforcement in decades other than technology upgrades. Most of the training and changes focus on officer behavior. But I ask why focus on overall behavior when the majority of cops a good cops at doing there jobs. What needs to be done is structural change, which police departments haven't changed in decades. There needs to be structure that makes good cops better and weed the bad cops out. I suggest instead of an inexperienced civilian committee like Dayton put together is to put together a group of individuals who are experts in policing such as Edward J. Delattre, James M. Hart, Anthony W. Batts, Sean Michael Smoot and Ellen Scrivner. These are just few of the people who have done extensive studies on change management in police work. I firmly believe that the military structure of police departments is outdated and needs to be changed, if for no other reason that the us v them isn't working. I want to add here that I also believe that community policing is not working and that needs to be addressed also.
JoeRum said law enforcement could look to the military for higher standards of conduct.
As a former US ARMY MP I am saddened and appalled by this. In the Army the standards to become an MP are very high. To remain an MP is even tougher. If you were involved in anything that would disgrace the MP Corp you would be out. A fist fight, a DWI you would be done. We need to change the laws and hold them to a higher standard. There are many great candidates that want to serve and protect our communities. Just because you became an officer does not give you any right to remain one if you have done anything that brings your integrity in to question.
Reader justthetruth argued law enforcement officers should be held to the same standards as ordinary citizens.
My question is this: if the men involved in these domestic abuse cases had not been police officers, would their cases have been handled differently by the criminal justice system? If they had not been police officers, would they have kept their jobs? Given our society's emphasis on aggressively prosecuting these cases under non-police officer involvement circumstances, I think not. Citizens need to follow the laws and accept the consequences of violating them. Police Officers are citizens. They need to follow the same laws and accept the same consequences. Period.
avejoecon expressed a sentiment shared by many critics of the series.
wondering how many of you are willing to hold yourself up to the same demands as you are holding up others. If you get convicted of a misdemeaner, are YOU quitting your jobs?
Briechers suggested the processes agencies use to determine whether to take disciplinary action are problematic.
Why don't cities have more discretion? Why don't colleges have more discretion? Why don't school boards have more discretion? Putting all our eggs in the process basket let's incompetency hide in our systems. Outcomes are what matters, not fealty to a process.
foreseer2 sees other factors at work.
Let me point out the elephant in the room. Race and gender. What percentage of these officers are white males, versus women and male minority group members? And the same question for the review board? And what percentage of the review board have committed a crime, and what was their consequence, if any? And how does that white male problem group compare to the percentage of white male officers in the state?
furguson11 wondered why the POST board doesn't seem to have access to public information about convictions.
Perhaps the POST board should get information on all criminal convictions. Or maybe they could just look at the public court database or BCA records like other employers do.
On the final story, about Oregon's more aggressive approach to police discipline, reader jonnybgood was impressed.
How can anyone be negative about the Oregon process? Holding police accountable will help them gain respect! If there are fewer cops, it's because they've gotten rid of the bad ones! There are other solutions to increasing the number of cops. I'm willing to pay more for good cops! We don't need people that become cops because it gives them control and power over other people, satisfying a missing piece of their ego. Eligibility to be a police officer should include emotional intelligence/maturity.