In reading a lot of recent news article and opinion pieces in the paper, as well as in hearing broadcast reporting, it's apparent that people, both the public and reporters, are misusing terms in discussions relative to recent and ongoing police incidents. Often incidents are described as being "because of" minor traffic stops (expired plates, items dangling from a mirror, broken or inoperable lights, etc.). Although the injuries and occasional deaths are subsequent to the stops for minor infractions, what ensues is a result of action, reaction and interaction behaviors of the parties involved, not "because of" the initial minor violation. "Because of" and "subsequent to" are not the same thing; and this isn't just a matter of semantics.
Also, people seem to equate and misuse the term "pretext" for any stop for minor or equipment violations. A pretext is a false justification for something else. Most of these stops aren't pretexts. They are stops for minor violations of traffic laws. Consistent with enforcement of traffic law violations are such things such as verifying valid licenses, the existence of valid insurance or the existence of arrest warrants. These are not pretexts, but valid reasons.
Almost all traffic violations (including moving violations such as failing to stop for red lights or stop signs, speeding, unsafe lane changes or other vehicle operation) are petty misdemeanors, not misdemeanors. Most DUIs are misdemeanors. Talk of no longer making stops for misdemeanors includes all of these. There are also more serious gross misdemeanors.
If people don't want laws enforced, then the laws shouldn't be there at all. If we want to have discussions of redefining or reshaping policing, then let's start the discussions based on the right issues, not on misused terminology or focus on the "because of" or "pretext."
Dana Smyser, Coon Rapids
The writer is a retired law enforcement officer.
What the law allows, what the facts show and what can be proven
The criticism of Washington County Attorney Pete Orput ("Orput stands by Potter charge," April 24) is unwarranted and unfair. He was correct in his reading of the law and in his decision to charge this case as he did. I presided over a number of cases with Orput when he was an assistant Hennepin County attorney, and he always followed the law in his charging decisions, applying the law to the facts of each case he prosecuted. He is also down to earth and approachable, such that I'm not the least surprised he was willing to leave his house and engage the protesters, listening to them even while disagreeing with them. Speaking of which, unless Nekima Levy Armstrong is willing to publish her own home address, she should probably not conduct protests at the homes of others.
Peter Albrecht, Minneapolis
The writer is a retired Hennepin County District Court judge.
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Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong and others are pressing for a murder charge in the killing of Daunte Wright. It seemed to me that Levy Armstrong had some prejudicial opinions about the charge and about Orput. Perhaps the article could have done more to help me see her point of view.
For example, Levy Armstrong stated that Orput spoke to Black people at the protest differently than to white people. "Anyone watching the video could see that," she said. I couldn't find any videos online, but I'm guessing I might speak differently to a group of protesters outside my house (Black or white) than I might to people (Black or white) in a more subdued setting.
Levy Armstrong goes on to say that "if that were a white boy, you would have charged murder." About Orput, she says, "And his belief system is to give the police officers the benefit of the doubt." Not only are those remarks speculative but inflammatory. I would hope that Orput is in a position to make an experienced, informed, unemotional decision, with more facts available to him than to most observers.
My opinion is that the traffic stop was questionable, the attempted handcuffing of Daunte Wright was bungled and the entire approach was too aggressive, with no effort to de-escalate the situation. However, as hard as it is to believe that a veteran police officer mistook her service weapon for her Taser, as she claims, I believe she did not knowingly shoot to kill Wright. But that's just one opinion. I'm willing to listen to others.
Randy Evans, Edina
'Confront' does not mean 'riot'
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters provided a clear response ("Those targeting my words distort the truth," Opinion Exchange, April 24) to those who would translate her words as a call for violence. She rightly compared her statements to those of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when he referred to Project C, Project Confrontation, as a peaceful way to further the cause of civil rights. However, I can understand how the conservative radical libertarians and anarchists might believe otherwise. Their mind-set is one of violence and armed conflict. They saw their leader, the loser of the last presidential election, Donald Trump, shout out words intended to effect the overthrow of our government on Jan. 6 through violent and destructive actions. If their side does it, they reason, why wouldn't the left use the same violent tactics? Many Republicans in Congress have been shockingly dismissive of the attack or silent.
As for Rep. Waters, she has been and continues to be a strong voice for civil rights who has walked in the shoes of the oppressed.
Warren Blechert, Brooklyn Park
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A piece written by Rep. Waters for the Los Angeles Times was printed on the opinion pages of the Star Tribune. In that piece she declared that she is and always has been a nonviolent person.
She went on to write that she'd "attended a peaceful rally to demonstrate my support in this fight to get justice." While there, she wrote that she was asked, "What do we do if we don't get a guilty verdict? What should protesters do?"
She responded, "We got to stay on the street. And we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational."
While this is not overt violence, it certainly is an egregious call to violence by a person in a leadership position, a member of Congress. Angry people will interpret "get more active and confrontational" as a call to violence unless led and encouraged to see another way of confrontation. How else might angry people nonviolently get more active and confrontational than the screaming into megaphones they were already doing?
Waters offered no suggestions or alternatives. She quoted Martin Luther King Jr. But King led from in front, showing by example how to be nonviolently confrontational. He chose to lead by example rather than incite others to violence with suggestive rhetoric.
While hiding behind carefully crafted deflection in her Los Angeles Times piece to present an illusion of nonviolent posture, it's clear that Waters was inciting angry people in Minneapolis to violence.
Donald S. Foreman, Fridley
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Just curious. Are the people who accuse Maxine Waters of intimidating the Chauvin trial jury into coming up with a guilty verdict by any chance the same people who said Trump and friends' rhetoric had no influence on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol? It seems to me that you can't have it both ways.
Jean Rainbow, Golden Valley
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