My wife and I have followed the Jamar Clark tragedy since we returned to live in Minnesota after 10 years in Africa, three in Ethiopia and seven in Zimbabwe.
It’s perplexing to see deaths happening so often here as police bring guns into every situation. We have read about multiple tragic deaths, including of both police and civilians, when non-life-threatening situations end up with shootings and death.
It is surprising this is so common here in a country that prides itself on freedom and a democratic life. We saw many police when we lived in Africa and were often pulled over in police roadblocks as we drove through Namibia, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. What we seldom saw was police carrying guns in those countries. Why is it so necessary and so expected here? There must be many good technological alternatives to a handgun for many of these altercations that now often turn into a one-gun-and-done tragedy.
Alan Briesemeister, Delano
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The announcement Wednesday that no charges will be filed against the two Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of Jamar Clark leaves questions unanswered. The detailed and frank discussion by Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman did not address a key question: Since Clark was on the ground, with a large police officer on top of him, and he was controlled such that the other officer was able to rest the barrel of his gun against Clark’s mouth, why was Clark killed and not disabled? While it may be appropriate in some situations for the officer to shoot to kill, in this case why not move the gun barrel to Clark’s arm, or shoulder or leg? Clearly lethal force was not necessary to further disable the young man. Perhaps no charges are warranted. But where is the respect for human life here?
Mark Mammel, Dellwood
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While I am sympathetic with Mike Freeman’s struggle to do the right thing by the officers, so far his response does little to reassure Black Lives Matter activists that the status quo will change. Here are some steps that might be helpful:
• Charge the officer with abuse of force, or with assault and battery.
• Institute training on nonviolent de-escalation of confrontations.
• Acknowledge the positive contributions that local activists have had in bringing attention to this injustice.
• Change the culture so that our law enforcement does not assume that dark skin equals violence, drug use and lawlessness.
• Honor Nekima Levy-Pounds, Minneapolis chapter president of the NAACP, and hire her as a consultant on community relationships. I’ll bet her suggestions would be better than mine.
Barbara Staub, Scandia
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As a general statement, it’s good to support enhanced training for police officers in negotiation and de-escalation. I suspect that most officers would agree — anything that might make their jobs a little less dangerous. But we’re on shaky ground when, speaking of a specific incident, we say things like “The officers should have de-escalated the situation,” or, “They shouldn’t have used a takedown.” Absent evidence of misconduct, no one who’s never faced an equivalent situation is qualified to reach such conclusions.
Dan Beck, Minneapolis
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My heart goes out to those affiliated with Black Lives Matter. They have lost trust in the police, have lost one of their own and now they believe they’ve been lied to again.
I also have the utmost respect for the police, and they put their lives on the line every day.
I think we can all agree that something needs to change in order to prevent this type of confrontation from escalating into the death of a young black male within 61 seconds. One thing is for sure: Our minds and hearts need to change.
A March 31 letter started with “I am a Caucasian white male. This means I’ve not personally felt the pain of discrimination.” Then the writer went on to criticize those who have personally felt the pain of discrimination.
Black Lives Matter is a movement that is essential in helping us all see institutionalized racism and create a better society. It is not saying that black lives are more important but simply that in our current white society, black lives are not valued. As a white female, I, too, have never experienced the pain of discrimination. But it’s my job to learn what that pain might feel like, and learn how it permeates our entire society — that it’s insidious and that we often do not realize it is happening.
Unfortunately, many people still do not believe institutionalized racism is true. Here are some thought-provoking statements about white privilege that might change some minds and hearts: “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh (tinyurl.com/o9bu95h).
Sandra Boes O’Brien, Minneapolis
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The Jamar Clark finding is certainly controversial and has resulted in raw emotions. I want to praise the black community for the restraint to avoid violence in the aftermath. The nonviolent approach worked well during the early days of the civil rights movement. This time it will discourage backlash and allow white people to have a more open mind about treatment of minorities.
Jim Bartos, Brooklyn Park
Gun that looks like cellphone? Brilliant idea. Just brilliant.
What a great idea by Kirk Kjellberg (“Gun designer aims for success,” March 31). Everyone should have a gun that looks like a cellphone. It would solve so many typical daily problems. Especially if you are in a restaurant with children, as Kjellberg stated. Slow service? Problem solved with a single shot. I want my cellphone to have a laser feature — then I would feel really safe. (New from Apple: the iGun.) You thought texting while driving was a problem?
Jerome Ryan, Minneapolis
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Costs in coaching contracts are hardly where the troubles end
In questioning the $7 million buyout provision for the University of Minnesota basketball coach, the two newest regents refer to “a university bubble where logic doesn’t quite look the same as it does for the rest of us.” (“Change is urged on big U coaching deals,” March 31).
This should be just the beginning of such questions. The 2015 administrative cost report includes some astounding total amounts in several general categories, such as $80.3 million for “leadership,” $77.5 million for consulting and professional services for “mission,” and $66.1 million for consulting and professional services for “mission support.”
The March 31 issue of the Star Tribune also includes a report on student loan debt (“Tales of student debt aired at Capitol,” March 31). There is a connection here.
Just as Wall Street bankers created a housing bubble using other people’s money, the senior administrators and the older regents have created a higher-education bubble using student loan debt. When this budget balloon bursts, they will walk away unscathed, just as the investment bankers did. The students (and their parents) will suffer harm from the student loan debt that inflated the balloon. They will be shackled with that debt for many years.
Michael W. McNabb, Lakeville