The story about body cameras ("Police body camera reform spotty," Dec. 29) revealed some logic that is hard to accept. Body cameras became popular, if not necessary, to document the actions of both police officers and the public. Cameras have limitations as to how they record a scene regarding their clarity, angle of view and sound qualities. But to use them as a behavior therapy tool, as suggested by the League of Minnesota Cities, is faulty logic. First, who appointed the league to be some recognized authority for police policies? Departments must create their own policies based on many aspects of their unique size, demographics, resources and history. Departments being pigeonholed by some national guidelines is also erroneous thinking.
Turning on cameras only for emergency calls ignores those calls that started out as nonconfrontational but turned into something much more. This is the same faulty logic as the so-called "routine traffic stop." Any contact with the public should be documented.
The notion that "bad cops" should wear cameras as a behavior modification tool becomes a quagmire for policy benchmarks. If you have cops with a history of lying both on and off the stand plus other violations, why are they working for your agency? Cameras shouldn't be used as a stigma to keep officers in line. Shall police departments become judged by how many officers are required to wear body cameras? No. It has to be a department-wide approach — all or nothing.
A responsible department must always be mindful as to how its policies are working. To "reform" doesn't mean something is wrong. It means you are constantly raising your standards to optimize your public safety mission. This includes body cameras.
Joe Polunc, Waconia
The writer is a retired deputy sheriff.
A couple of recent letter writers have argued that Daunte Wright brought trouble upon himself by neglecting to comply with police orders. This attitude fails to acknowledge the distinct dangers that Black citizens, especially young Black men, encounter when interacting with law enforcement.
"This group is probably predominantly white because there's not looting and fires," a Minneapolis police officer said when confronting people protesting George Floyd's murder. Said another, "You guys are out hunting people now. It's just a nice change of tempo."
When Caron Nazario, a Black Army lieutenant in uniform who was pulled over for not having a permanent rear license plate, refused police orders to exit his vehicle, he told them he was "honestly afraid to get out." An officer replied, "Yeah, you should be!" He also said, "You're fixing to ride the lightning, son."
After he did everything right at his traffic stop, Philando Castile was shot five times, twice in the heart.
It's not a simple choice to follow orders when "I can't breathe" is the common refrain of a long line of victims who look like you dying at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us. Law enforcement officers should understand that if they want compliance, they first have to earn the trust of all the citizens they serve.
Jeff Naylor, Minneapolis
Time to balance the burden
The defense of keeping Interstate 94 as a freeway is interesting as it's based on its regional value. This is illustrated in "There won't soon be another chance to rethink I-94 corridor" (Dec. 19) through an example of a hypothetical commuter traveling across the metro from their home in the city of Minnetonka to their job at the 3M campus in Maplewood 30 miles away.
This differs from the common defense of Twin Cities highways on the grounds of suburbanites commuting to their jobs in Minneapolis and St Paul. I find this argument effectively shuts down an examination of costs, as these cities are dependent on these commuters and therefore costs are irrelevant.
In fact, the example may be more the rule than the exception, as 70% of jobs reside in the suburbs outside of the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, according to a 2015 Metropolitan Council report. Simply put, many, many commuters are traveling through the cities while providing no direct benefit to the communities. Nevertheless, these highways do impose a cost on the cities through lost property taxes. The highways were not located along existing streets; rather, they were located on the taxable land between streets. Additionally, highways depress the value of nearby properties. An analysis published on streets.mn estimates Minneapolis loses $43 million in property taxes annually.
When reimagining I-94 and making decisions based on its regional value, I hope the Department of Transportation will also consider I-94's costs on communities. My ideal outcome would be an expansion of Hwy. 62 and I-694 to relieve congestion on I-94. If the value is regional, the costs should be regional as well.
Ronald Hobson, St. Louis Park
Happy animals are the outliers
In today's industrial food system, there is a stark contrast between the story marketed to consumers about where their animal-based food comes from and the grim reality concealed from view. The picture accompanying the story in the Dec. 26 Star Tribune, "Farm-animal law prompts lawsuit," reprinted from the Associated Press, only serves to perpetuate this confusion. In 2018, California voters, by a compelling 2-to-1 ratio, approved a law that requires the most basic compassion for animals: "enough space to stand and turn around."
Three years later, most hog producers have not made changes to comply with this law and a coalition of restaurants and grocery stores have filed a lawsuit to try to delay implementation. If consumers were presented with the reality of the awful cruelty inflicted on animals to produce their meat, they might think twice about what they choose to eat. Instead, though, this article is accompanied by a half-page, full-color photo of an idyllic farm setting: a few happy, healthy pigs casually hanging around outside in a large open field on a clear sunny day. This image is what the pork industry wants to sell us and bears absolutely no resemblance to the grotesque reality of industrial pork production. The image is so detached from the reality that California voters are trying to address; we challenge the Star Tribune to explain why it chose this photo to accompany this story.
Ben Auckenthaler and Samantha Crosby, Minneapolis
Better out than in
My recent 45-minute walk around Burnsville's Earley Lake was physically and spiritually uplifting. What a treat to see three dozen mallards relishing the open water created by melted snow flowing in from a residential storm sewer. How fortunate we are to witness nature's beauty and adaptability. Especially in the midst of omicron, I think trekking through a local park is preferable to stomping on a gym treadmill.
Camille Lenling, Burnsville
THE NEW YEAR
May we all be doing our duty
On May 19, 1780, a strange intense darkness descended over New England. Later it was understood to be caused by forest fire smoke from Canada coinciding with massive fog and cloud cover. But at the time, it provoked foreboding and terror!
As this darkness draped the chamber of the Connecticut Legislature, a movement to adjourn the meeting was put forward in case it was the end of the world.
Abraham Davenport, a member of the legislature, responded to the call for adjournment with these words: "I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought."
What helpful words as we move into a new year!
The crises and problems in the world right now can make one want to turn inside, throw up walls and await the end as comfortably as possible.
But like our friend Mr. Davenport, in the year ahead let's calmly ask for light to be brought that we may be found faithfully and lovingly doing the work we've each been given.
Joel Warne, Plymouth
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