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Every day we place an enormous amount of trust in the police to keep the peace and protect us from violence. More than that, we expect a perfect duality — we ask officers to make split second life-or-death decisions while possessing the wisdom and wherewithal to slow down, evaluate and proceed cautiously. We ask police to be masters of peaceful de-escalation while also being tactically prepared to operate like a special-forces soldier if an active-shooter situation arises.

And these highly scrutinized officers, having everything they do recorded, must do all of it without making one single mistake. The consequences of their decisions can be fatal.

I realize these expectations are high, and rightfully so. That is the commitment we make when we take the oath.

I worry about gun violence in our community every day. It's what gets me out of bed and onto a crime scene in the middle of the night, and it's what I think about daily in the office. After Kansas City, when young people fired shots into a crowd at the Super Bowl parade, I immediately recalled how a similar scene played out in a downtown parking lot earlier this month, and how Minneapolis cops acted swiftly and safely arrested the gunman before anyone was hurt.

Twenty-five years ago, after the massacre at Columbine High School, we learned that traditional police tactics in response to an active shooter no longer work. When children are being slaughtered, securing a scene and waiting for specially trained SWAT officers to arrive is not feasible. Shooting in most of these incidents is over within minutes, and time is of the essence. This is all compounded by the fact that weapons that should be confined to the battlefield are readily available on our streets. And whatever police are available — even if it's one officer armed only with a handgun — that cop must immediately respond and stop the shooter. We have seen police fail to rise to the occasion when this happened both at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and in Uvalde, Texas.

But our training and approach to active-shooter situations is constantly changing, and I'm thankful for the ongoing work being done to ensure that Minneapolis is prepared.

In early February, I observed a remarkable evolution in training, led by Minneapolis Police Sgt. Josh Rick. That night, hundreds of Minneapolis police officers, law-enforcement partners and other first responders descended on the Target headquarters and the Target store downtown to participate in a series of well-thought-out, realistic active-shooter scenarios. I was overwhelmingly impressed by the realistic nature of the drill, the seriousness with which the participants approached it, and how well the MPD and our partners proved our capabilities.

But what we do at training and what happens in real life are different. The stress from not wanting to be embarrassed in front of your peers is different from that of when bullets are flying past your head — it's human instinct to flee. Despite this, we demand our officers go against their instincts and toward danger. The only way we can assure our officers are prepared to summon that deep reserve of courage is through meticulous, realistic and frequent training.

With the current Minnesota Department of Human Rights settlement agreement and an upcoming federal consent decree, our already-stretched-thin officers will participate in dozens of hours of additional training on topics like stops and searches, arrest practices, implicit bias and use of force. This vital training ensures our department is serving the residents of Minneapolis with the highest standards. But the training that prepares our officers to courageously confront the evil posed by an active shooter is vital as well. Though these incidents are infrequent, ensuring that we are properly trained is critical. And that takes significant time.

Finding the balance to accomplish all our goals simultaneously, while we are severely understaffed, is an extremely challenging task. But we will get it done, and we will prove to be the best police department in the nation.

As we rebuild, I ask for patience. Our current situation did not happen overnight, and we will not correct it all overnight. As your police chief, I promise you, the people of Minneapolis, we will be prepared to be the police — we will respond quickly, appropriately and honorably. We will place our lives on the line to protect all people in our community from danger. We will hold ourselves accountable for our actions.

Earning community trust is a pillar of the reforms I am making throughout the MPD. My goal is that our officers not only earn your trust in times of peace, but also in the face of peril. As we move forward, I want all people in this community to truly feel their Minneapolis police have their backs.

Brian O'Hara is chief of police in Minneapolis.


Star Tribune opinion editor's note: If you're interested in learning more about the complicated nature of mass-shooting responses, we highly recommend "To stop a shooter," available online now (tinyurl.com/atlantic-shootings) and in the March issue of the Atlantic. You may encounter a paywall.