I have never been a fan of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, having worked with him on criminal justice committees and as a member of the Bloomington City Attorney's Office for many years. However, in reading the March 31 article highlighting the personal attacks on Freeman by the groups Recall Mike Freeman and Justice 4 Jamar ("After protests, Freeman got protection and sold his home"), I feel compelled to respond.
1) I believe it is true that the Minnesota criminal justice system has exhibited historical callousness to justice for people of color and other disenfranchised groups. It's a systemic problem, not isolated to Freeman.
2) It is also true that prosecutors often take what police say at face value and defend them in a knee-jerk manner. This is because prosecutors' job functions are reliant on the officers' presentation of the facts; they have no independent means of verifying the police report but must simply apply the law to the facts that they are given.
3) Freeman is overly defensive of the police because his office is reliant on their cooperation in order to prosecute crimes. Moreover, claims against county law enforcement actions must be defended by Freeman's office. Couple that with his obligation to defend the employer in police officer discipline, and the conflict of interest intensifies. Police discipline is often minimized so as to maintain the symbiotic relationship between police and prosecutors and to avoid future civil liability. This is true of every county or city attorney's office.
The criminal justice system needs to develop a richer understanding of all the groups it serves. Require police body camera operation leading up to and including every citizen encounter so as to independently verify the facts of the case. Disentangle police defense and disciplinary actions from city or county attorney's offices by assigning these duties to separate, statewide entities to avoid the current conflicts of interest. And let Mike Freeman off the hot seat — just this once.
Sandra Johnson, Minnetonka
Developing efforts promise to put Minnesota on the right track
As the Bush Foundation looks at investments in the Black, Indigenous and people-of-color communities ("Bush charity's target is disparity," March 30), I'm glad that the Minnesota Legislature is also looking at doing more to support BIPOC-led small businesses.
After serving as a public school teacher for 13 years and consistently finding that there are not enough books for students who look like me, I was driven to start a book publishing company. I realized that if I wanted to see more children's books that reflect an authentic Black experience, I would have to do something about it.
I launched Strive Publishing in 2018, and have published several books, but my business could do so much more if I was able to get access to business capital to hire staff and add capacity. Instead I've had to bootstrap it, using personal credit cards and the efforts of friends and family to keep the business going.
I'm grateful to state Rep. Mohamud Noor for carrying a bill to require an analysis of the state's small business programs to see how they could better support small businesses, especially those founded by women and members of BIPOC communities. Now is the time to invest in BIPOC entrepreneurs to help us build our community's wealth. I encourage the governor and other legislators to support HF 1784 as well.
A bill like this would help entrepreneurs like me. With a relatively small amount of capital I could create jobs for editors and illustrators, and actually pay myself, while centering Black voices.
Mary Taris, Robbinsdale
The writer is founder of Strive Publishing.
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It appears there is much promise for success if the initiative ("Black leaders focus on lasting change," editorial, April 2) within the Black community takes root and flourishes. As outlined by the Star Tribune Editorial Board, this program appears to be a different approach as successful Black businesses are determined to mentor others toward great potential. This is core to our entrepreneurial system that rewards hard work and pride in your community. Despite complaints with capitalism, there is no other economic system that primes the pump for unbridled success. Part of this too is to recognize the tremendous value of education that prepares the next generation for its role in society. We cannot ignore the role of a functional family that nurtures responsible lifestyles and recognizes the need for a connection to faith. The combination of loving family that welcomes God is a powerful insulator to the pitfalls of society.
The further this new initiative can stay from government control and meddling, the better chance it has for success. In the wake of so many failed government sponsored programs, let us all support this new program with the hope that it leads to a successful outcome. Once success begins, it will become self-sustaining as others want to "cash in." With all the problems facing us, this would truly be a welcome development for all of us.
Joe Polunc, Waconia
RACE AND MEDICINE
Disparities aren't new, but hopes for improvement began 50 years ago
The disparity of minority student enrollment in the medical profession isn't new. I applaud the University of Minnesota Medical School's 15% representation of Black students in its freshman class.
We as budding physicians at the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry in the late 1960s were drawn into the paradox of just such a representative minority presence described by Jennifer Brooks ("Seeing yourself in your doctor," March 28). As freshman medical students in socially tumultuous times, we were viscerally drawn into the effort as participants in the Student Health Organization to turn the medical system upside-down by creating a student-organized and -staffed free clinic in the predominantly Black city of Newark.
We, white, were committed to serve as role models for inner-city high school students who stood beside us as we built and staffed our innovative free clinic. Our efforts, a year after what Chicago Seven member Tom Hayden describes in his book "Rebellion in Newark," faced still-angry residents we sought to help and from our own white culture. We experienced the reprisal of being expelled from our threatened medical school administrators.
Current efforts to fight our profession's lack of role models and declining enrollment by potential students of color can be challenged and, hopefully corrected as we hoped in the late '60s. I often wonder how many high school students caught the spark to become physicians from our legacy? The Family Health Care Center still flourishes in inner-city Newark after 64 years.
Dr. Peter J. Dorsen, Eagan
A better equation
The March 29 article on takeout food ("Takeout without the guilt") really hit home for me. For the past year I have been struggling with wanting to support my favorite restaurants but disgust with all the trash every meal created. In addition to the trash aspect, I don't like getting hot food in plastic or Styrofoam containers that are leaching toxic chemicals into my food. I'm ready to sign up for refillable containers!
Lori Olinger, North Oaks
WHERE WE'RE AT
And a better equation still
Spring+Easter+COVID-19 vaccines = great to be alive!
Mark Navara, New Richmond, Wis.
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