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The Star Tribune reported that "more than a dozen" activists gathered on Jan. 28 to make demands based upon the recent outrageous fatal beating of a suspect by police in Memphis ("Memphis killing revives call for police reform," Jan. 29). This small group of radical activists is calling upon the Minnesota Legislature to "commit to ending the systems" and "making real legislation that addresses the issues of accountability." Apparently, they are either unaware of, or deliberately ignoring, the many reform actions taken in Minnesota since the killing of George Floyd in 2020.
The George Floyd tragedy highlighted the need for reform in key areas of policing. How should police respond when dealing with a suspect in medical and/or emotional distress? How can medical personnel and mental health experts be brought in quickly and safely to emergency calls? Are certain restraints used by police too dangerous to justify their use in controlling suspects? Should police have a legal duty to intervene when they believe another officer might be violated the rights and/or endangering the life of a suspect?
Despite the assertions of activists to the contrary, the Legislature and Minneapolis Police Department have implemented reforms that would have saved Floyd had they been in effect. The neck restraint used on Floyd has been banned, a duty is imposed on police to intervene when other cops misbehave, and multiple initiatives are underway to make better use of medical, mental health and other resources when police are not the optimal responders to an emergency call.
Minneapolis is experiencing a violent crime epidemic greatly exacerbated by a severe shortage of police and emergency call responders. The top priorities for 2023 should be to recruit police and focus on community outreach, not pass laws to overregulate police in Minnesota because of the criminal actions of other cops 800 miles away in Tennessee. It's time to stand up to the small group of radicals who loudly promote anti-police initiatives that further weaken our understaffed and demoralized police departments and lead to more violent crime in the neighborhoods these misguided, self-appointed "leaders" claim to care about.
Jerry Anderson, Minneapolis
Upon reading that a group recently protested at the governor's mansion over the recent death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers, I was stunned that the group allowed former state Rep. John Thompson (who served from 2020 to 2022) to speak at their rally, given that he hypocritically called to hold lawmakers accountable despite his own actions and history that led to his failed re-election bid last year ("St. Paul protesters urge local reforms," Jan. 30). I understand the need for police reform, but should someone who had an out-of-state driver's license, apparently due to not paying child support, and multiple accusations of domestic assault against him really be the spokesperson for police accountability? The DFL House caucus made the right choice by kicking him out in 2021. Local DFL activists (who gave him their endorsement in 2020) made the right choice when they gave the endorsement to Liz Lee instead in 2022. Finally, DFL voters made the right choice by voting for Lee (who is now a state representative) in the DFL primary also in 2022.
Unfortunately, these protest groups refused to make the right choice on Thompson.
William Cory Labovitch, South St. Paul
The Supreme Court standard on police use of deadly force is basically correct ("Deadly force: What's changed, what hasn't," Opinion Exchange, Jan. 28). You don't want people Monday-morning-quarterbacking someone who had to make a split-second decision in a potentially lethal situation.
But that is not the end of it. There is someone in position to Monday-morning-quarterback any officer's use of deadly force: the officer's chief of police. If a chief sees an officer with a pattern of excessive force and training and discipline do not bring them into line, that officer should be dismissed. And had we a national register of police performance, no police force would hire them; they would be out of policing.
What has changed and what has not? What has changed is that we now have new, well-researched policing approaches, such as guardian/procedural justice policing, that de-escalate police violence and reduce crime because the community begins to trust the police again.
What hasn't changed is that too many chiefs and departments are still committed to the old violent, ineffective warrior-policing approach. And these chiefs will cover up officers using excessive force.
Also unchanged in too many jurisdictions even when the chief is committed to the superior new policing approaches: Myriad red-tape obstacles hamstring them from firing officers they know should not be on the force. Whether our new Minneapolis Chief Brian O'Hara, even with his sterling track record, will be able to remove insubordinate and incompetent officers from the force remains to be seen. His predecessor at the time of the Floyd killing, a fine man, was not.
Walter McClure, Edina
Burning trash is not it
The Jan. 14 article "DFLers advance bills for carbon-free electricity by 2040" missed an opportunity to expose the dirty secret about some of the so-called "renewable" energy sources in the state's renewable energy mandate.
I am thrilled to see the Minnesota Democratic Party finally act against the polluting impacts of trash incineration. DFL lawmakers introduced carbon-free electricity bills that disqualify the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) as a source of renewable energy. This is a great step, but still subsidizes the six other trash burners in the state that are not only spewing toxic chemicals into communities but also emitting significant amounts of carbon.
In fact, industry data reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that, to produce the same energy as burning coal, trash incineration is 65% worse for the climate and emits five times more mercury pollution.
Minneapolis, hosting the largest and most urban of the state's incinerators, deserves clean air and an end to state subsidies for pollution. The six other communities being polluted by trash burners in Blue Earth, Douglas, Goodhue, Olmsted, Otter Tail and Polk counties deserve the same.
It is time for Minnesota to take a stand and transition to truly clean energy and more sustainable and equitable waste management practices such as reuse, recycling, composting and other zero-waste solutions.
I urge DFL lawmakers to take the next step and disqualify all trash incinerators as sources of renewable energy.
Mike Ewall, Philadelphia
The writer is executive director, Energy Justice Network.
We at Honor the Earth ironically applaud the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. It voted unanimously to require an environmental-impact statement for the CO2 pipeline proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions. That's the latest bad — and potentially lethal — idea for Minnesota, its landowners and the environment ("PUC orders environmental review," Jan. 6). The more recent front-page story about Minnesota landowners pushing back against five-figure easement agreements should be read by anyone concerned about Minnesota's environment — and safety ("Carbon plan sees rural MN pushback," Jan. 25).
We also marvel that Christina Brusven, a key legal mouthpiece for Enbridge's unnecessary Line 3 project, is now the legal counsel for Summit. The answers to climate change and carbon management are not in building more pipelines, but in hemp, a field crop that once grew extensively in Minnesota and can sequester more carbon than any field crop or a forest. Hemp is the simple answer to this problem, and it could put Minnesota in the lead of the new green revolution.
Winona LaDuke, Ponsford, Minn.
The writer is co-founder and co-executive director, Honor the Earth.