Much of the controversy in the trial of Mohamed Noor in the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond while Noor was on duty as a Minneapolis police officer centers on whether the cameras were switched on or off, and the related decisions by the officers involved (“Prosecutors in Noor case query cops on behavior,” April 16). My question is simple: Why is the camera on/off switch accessible to the officers at all?
I was an airline pilot for almost 40 years before retiring, and my career spanned the years in which cockpit voice recorders (CVRs) were introduced. I recall the controversy clearly. The pilots initially fought what we saw as an invasion of our workplace privacy, but the calls for the availability of this information for accident investigation purposes from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were too strong to fight, and the recorders were installed over our objections in all the airliner cockpits. There was not an on/off switch! There was usually a circuit-breaker, which we were informed was never to be pulled unless certain conditions were met, and other than those specific situations, the voice recorder was on whenever electrical power was on the airplane. The idea, of course, was that the root causes of most accidents (or at least valuable clues) usually were revealed in the last recorded conversations of any accident flight. The pilots’ unions insisted on a time limit for the recording, and the compromise was that the recording would be a continuous loop of the only the last 30 minutes of conversation.
We pilots objected to what we saw as a Big Brother microphone in the cockpit (and I assume today’s pilots still do), but in the interest of safety, we just gritted our teeth and lived with it. In the ensuing decades, CVR data has been of immense value in analyzing accident causes. Many lives (including, of course, flight crew lives!) have been saved as a result of remedies of flaws in the systems revealed by CVRs.
I know the police unions are struggling with this issue, and having carried a union card myself for almost 40 years, I sympathize with their concerns. However, at some point you have to realize that workplace privacy concerns must yield to public safety concerns. I suggest that police bodycams (and patrol car dashboard cams) should be on whenever the police are on duty, with a time limit on the recording loop, and that any attempt to disable them, as with a hard-to-access circuit breaker, necessitate a written report.
John Hanson, Northfield
U.S. REP. ILHAN OMAR
Editorial Board’s criticism indulges in false equivalence, Islamophobia
The April 16 editorial insisting that President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar are somehow two sides of the same divisive coin (“Turn down volume in war of words”) is both offensive and misguided. Ever since Trump rose into power, there has been a desire from the centrist media to pretend that both sides are equally to blame for the current state of politics. This false equivalency is not only wrong, it is dangerous. To disagree with Omar’s statements or wish that she would word things differently is one thing, but to act as if she is on the same moral level as an administration that has banned transgender troops from openly serving in their military, has pushed a Muslim ban through and has separated migrant children seeking asylum from their families is so absurd that it would almost be laughable if it weren’t so horrifying and dangerous. The attacks on Rep. Omar are not only outsized, they are an open example of the Islamophobia and hatred that not only grips our president but our nation. I am sorrier than I can say to see the Star Tribune Editorial Board indulging in it.
Hangatu Omar, St. Paul
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Seventy-two years ago this week, Brooklyn Dodgers co-owner Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play major-league baseball. Rickey instructed Robinson to be a model player, giving the public no reason to justify preconceived notions about blacks. Robinson’s high moral character served to turn the mirror back onto the larger society, exposing that society’s own prejudiced views. His contributions to our humanity, not to mention to the lives of blacks, are incalculable.
In 2018, Ilhan Omar was elected to Congress — the first Somali-American, the first naturalized citizen from Africa and one of the first two Muslim women to serve. This was a golden opportunity for her to be a model to the larger American society and to demonstrate, by sterling example, that Somalis, Muslims and naturalized Africans are dedicated American patriots who want what the rest of us want: America as a land of opportunity, and a beacon of hope, liberty and justice for the rest of the world.
Unlike Robinson, Rep. Omar came to the big leagues in over her head. Though I largely share her political views and hope and pray for her success, I regret that she had no Branch Rickey at her ear, guiding her as she swam among the sharks.
Thomas Kendrick, Minneapolis
PRESIDENT TRUMP’S VISIT
Why did the protester cross the road? To engage, politely
I am most grateful. The president was in town on Monday (“Trump touts tax cuts, economy in Minn.,” front page, April 16). While he spoke, members of the public gathered to declare their support as well as their views on any number of policy issues he is for or against. My initial purpose was to show up in support of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. Through that lens, our divided politics were clearly on display. It was very wearing, to say the least. Toward the end of the demonstration, a young lady came across the road and asked — most insistently — for the opportunity to exchange views. After a few moments, I decided to engage. In terms of consensus, we didn’t get very far.
That said, we smiled and shook hands. I am so grateful for that moment. It’s kind of like the end of any athletic event; the opposing teams line up to congratulate each other for their effort and playing by the rules. For the sake of understanding, I would look forward to future demonstrations where more of us are willing to “cross the road” to congratulate each other on the honest expression of our views but also our willingness to play by the rules.
Gregory Olson, Eden Prairie
What can be learned from parties’ tax arguments, side by side
Thank you for printing two views on Minnesota budget planning side by side (“The parties elucidate their best cases on taxes,” Opinion Exchange, April 16). The article by House Tax Chair Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, detailed plans, including spending, new taxes and tax relief for retirees and veterans. The article by House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, refers to this plan as irresponsible (with no specifics for alternatives).
I am a retired homeowner, and I support both the gas tax increase for transit infrastructure improvements and the medical tax on services to help pay for those who can’t afford it. We need good schools for all, safe roads, reliable and affordable health care. None of these are free. I expect this Legislature to work together, using all the skills and knowledge this elected body has, to ensure that Minnesota is maintained and continues to be a great state.
Christine Chambers, Shoreview