In Kimberly Potter's defense, the training she received put her in the situation where she took a life, and her regret was quick and devastating.
In Daunte Wright's defense, our subconscious instinct is to run like heck — he had little time for regret.
Potter was trained to show little concern for the life of a citizen who will not obey. There are many stories of officers who gave citizens an inch and lost their lives.
I find it sad to learn that officers who have reached the rank of chief believe it is justified to kill someone for being unwilling to submit to orders given on the street by police. We rely on an officer's best guess of the danger they are facing, and they can imagine all the things that could happen if they don't end the threat they perceive.
To hold this one officer to blame for Wright's loss of life is equally sad. If Potter is found guilty then it is her failure. If she is found not guilty then it is Wright's failure. We as a society have no blame to share in this story. The culture of training our police cadets to use force would have no error to correct.
Punishing Potter for the tragic mistake she made absolves the system that trained her, that promoted her to be a trainer, that continues to train officers in a culture that holds each one of us suspect when we do not behave how an officer chooses to have us behave.
Absolving Potter of blame reinforces the system that trained her to continue training cadets to take the actions that took Wright's life. The culture of warrior police should be the extreme, not the norm. A traffic stop should not turn into a battle for the right to live.
David Evans, Minneapolis
The Potter criminal trial should be a product liability civil case against the manufacturers of Tasers for their "recklessness and culpable negligence" in manufacturing a product that in the heat of the adrenaline rush could reasonably be mistaken for a gun. Why not make it the shape of a baseball? Or something other than a gun? Why not place it on the shoulder to carry, not in the waist belt, same as the gun? Abuse of police power, the laws of stops and racial discrimination still need to be addressed by society. But not in this case against this excellent police officer who made a mistake. Not to mention the need to rewrite the confusing laws of first- and second-degree manslaughter.
Joseph L. Daly, Minneapolis
The writer is emeritus professor of law, Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Brooklyn Center Cmdr. Garett Flesland called Potter "a good cop."
A good cop? Would Flesland also call someone reacting to a small kitchen fire by grabbing a gas can to douse a fire rather than using a small fire extinguisher at their feet "a good fireman"?
I do not pretend to know what was in Potter's heart. I do know that a person prone to panic in a job that requires calm, who then causes the death of another person by employing gross lethal firearm incompetence during a panic, should never again be allowed to carry a firearm, much less be employed as a police officer.
Nicholas G. Dolphin, Minneapolis
Downsides to restricting them
Wake up, County Attorney Mike Freeman. Advocating for categorically forbidding the police pursuit of most suspects will only promote more Daunte-Wright-type incidents. We have already gone way too far in the direction of deluding perpetrators into believing that if they can only outrun the police for a minute or two, they'll be home free because the cops won't or can't chase. This thinking is making the roads more dangerous, not less, for the innocent bystanders and for the suspects' unwitting passengers, for example, the officer partly in Wright's car.
Pat Flynn, St. Paul
Start earlier: Stable families
In the paper today we read about the youth crime surge and that repeat offenders are responsible for 75% of robbery arrests, including carjackings, and according to the mayor they need to be held responsible ("Mpls. mayor targets youth crime surge," Dec. 17). We've been hearing this forever and we will continue to hear this forever because none of our community leaders, police leaders, or politicians have the courage to address the underlying fundamental source of this problem. Someone asked why the justice system has failed to divert those young people from crime. If you wait till young people come in contact with the justice system, you've missed the bus.
So what is the fundamental source of the problem? It is in very large part the destruction of the nuclear family, and single-parent households with no father or male role model in the home. This condition is epidemic in our culture today and it corresponds to the growth of crime.
Just before he became president, Barack Obama said that a child raised in a single-parent household was five times more likely to live in poverty, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
Throw all the money you want at the crime problem, hire all the police you can, and crime will continue to grow. It will continue until we become brave enough to discuss the first, and most important cause of this problem: absent fathers and male role models.
Earl Faulkner Sr., Edina
Crime will not be reduced by stiffening penalties, filling our prisons with those guilty of minor offenses, or even putting more police officers on the street. It is often desperation that drives people to commit crimes. What we must do in order to address crime is to give all people something we all need: hope. Hope that working a 40-hour workweek will feed our families and give them shelter; hope that an unexpected illness or injury won't lead to bankruptcy due to health care costs; hope that our young adults will be able to pursue an education without facing decades of crushing debt; hope that we will be accepted in our schools and communities regardless of our race, religion, gender, nationality or sexual orientation.
We must urge our community leaders and legislators to restore our hope and our hopes for our children by supporting a living wage, universal health care, affordable education and more laws against discrimination of any kind.
In this, the season of hope, let us commit ourselves to this path of curtailing crime. This can be done — must be done — so that hope triumphs over despair, crime is reduced and our communities become the safe places we all want them to be.
Kelly A. Bankole, Lakeville
What's lost when we melt a statue
The recent photo and caption on the plan to melt down Charlottesville's Robert E. Lee statue into a piece of art in Virginia has bothered me for days. Why, exactly, is this a good thing to do?
Did we approve when the Taliban destroyed Afghanistan's 1,500-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas in a horrific excess of zealotry in 2001?
Did we applaud when another Islamic extremist group badly damaged the relics, in Northwest Africa's Mali, of the city of Timbuktu from several centuries ago?
I understand the strong feelings Robert E. Lee arouses among today's blessedly outspoken opponents of the so-called "lost cause," which keeps rearing its ugly head in spite of all that's happened since 1865. My ancestors were Quakers and abolitionists. My revulsion at America's treatment of its Black people is bone-deep.
But how does it help to destroy the evidences of history?
What is gained?
And what is lost?
Ann Thackrey Berry, St. Louis Park
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