Ramsey County residents expressed mixed feelings Tuesday night about Sheriff Bob Fletcher's performance, as county officials mull how to hold the Sheriff's Office accountable and improve community trust.
Fletcher has been criticized recently for actions he took while filming his \"Live on Patrol\" Facebook show.
Last month, he drove past an injured man who had been hit by a vehicle on a dark suburban roadway, narrowly missing running him over while filming a segment. In another episode, Fletcher pursued a stolen car for about 17 minutes through neighborhoods on St. Paul's East Side, reaching high speeds in residential areas and speeding the wrong way down one-way streets.
As many as 200 residents tuned into the virtual listening session put on by the county Tuesday. Many offered praise for Fletcher and insisted that county officials not try to make the sheriff's position appointed instead of elected; Fletcher urged supporters to call into the listening session earlier in the day. Others criticized the sheriff, saying he is not being accountable to the communities he covers.
"I do not see the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office as actually working in the best interest of the community where I live and serve," said Erin Hayes, a commissioner on St. Paul's Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission.
Hayes noted the Sheriff's Office did not support, or even acknowledge, a resolution her commission sent after the death of George Floyd proclaiming that sanctity of life should be a "core operational value" and officers should be required to intervene when witnessing excessive force. The lack of acknowledgment from Fletcher "shows a track record of not being accountable to policing in the communities that he covers,\" Hayes said.
Dante Warren, who works for Allina Health Emergency Medical Services, said he works with the Sheriff's Office daily. He praised Fletcher's Facebook show as an ongoing commitment to "accountability and trust."
"It's really an unedited, raw look into law enforcement and emergency services," Warren said. "And hopefully it will allow the public to understand that we're here to help."
Fletcher's supporters flooded the meeting's comment section with praise and scolded the county for even considering taking the power to appoint a sheriff away from voters.
Others, such as Carlos Garcia Velasco, said that those who have been "impacted negatively" by law enforcement were not present to comment.
Christina Lutchen, a mental health social worker, urged the Sheriff's Office to partner with mental health providers to better respond to people in crisis.
"We can go with them out into the community," she said. "It's not about cutting law enforcement officers. It's about adding to the work that they're already doing and really partnering with the community."