As a supporter of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, I looked forward to reading his thoughts on moving the city forward (“Worldwide change starts in Minneapolis,” Opinion Exchange, June 18) but by the time I finished, my excitement was gone.
Early on he talks about the obstacle of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, agreeing that “culture eats policy for breakfast” — but then he proceeds to lay out policy change after policy change, apparently believing that somehow things are going to be different. Sorry, Mayor, without addressing Lt. Bob Kroll and the legacy that created such a toxic culture, your policy proposals don’t stand a snowball’s chance on a hot summer day of ever making a difference.
Mayor, focus your energy at the source of the problem, and many of the changes you want to put in place may happen. If you don’t, expect the citizen vote this fall to change the city charter to do the job for you.
Howie Smith, Minneapolis
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Frey speaks of needing a scalpel rather than an ax to change the Minneapolis Police Department, but he needs to brush up on his surgery skills. He identifies a quantifiable definition of bad apples: officers “who have a history of sustained misconduct complaints.” But his solution is merely to limit new officers’ exposure to this rotten core rather than to remove the core itself. This problem won’t wait on the tortuous path of updating legislation that Frey advocates. If the only way to bring meaningful reform to an insidiously corrupt department is to raze and rebuild, it’s time to pick up the ax.
Meanwhile, another nail pounds into Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s career with the revelation that his office prematurely released autopsy findings with the implication that George Floyd’s death could be attributed to something other than the knee upon his neck. Freeman’s latest tenure as county attorney began 10 years ago when he refused to prosecute the Metro Gang Strike Force, a police unit that flagrantly abused its charter by harassing innocent citizens and looting confiscated property. Freeman’s more recent failures to bring proper charges against the officers who killed Jamar Clark and George Floyd make it crystal clear that certain citizens can always count on immunity from his prosecutorial duties.
There is a petition in circulation to recall Freeman from his post. There is one to recall Frey as well. The urgency of this moment demands that officials who can’t move us forward must get out of the way.
Jeff Naylor, Minneapolis
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The commentary in Wednesday’s Star Tribune by Norm Coleman, “Defund and disband City Hall leadership” (Opinion Exchange), was excellent and hit the nail on the head in so many ways. It should be read by every single lawmaker in the state. It puts the blame where it should be for the mess Minnesota is in today — namely, on the leaders and not the Police Department — and gives suggestions for cleaning up this great state. The governor and Minneapolis City Council need to read every word of it and wake up. We need more articles like this and less on the trashing of the Police Department.
Marge Miller, Coon Rapids
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There is probably a kernel of truth in Coleman’s assertion that “the remedy isn’t to defund and disband the Police Department”: In a less-than-ideal world there likely will always be a need for law enforcement. However, he fails to consider what many of us want from such a monumental change to the city’s approach to social problems. My understanding of the call for disbanding is not that we desire anarchy and chaos, but rather that “policing” is a treatment of symptoms of far more profound and pervasive problems, and a much better (look to New Jersey, of all places) approach is to treat those fundamental, underlying problems. (“What Mpls. can learn from Camden,” editorial, June 18.)
In my own view, money freed up by substantially defunding the police, as well as by increasing tax revenue, should be directed to improved education, nutrition, housing, health care, living-wage requirements, jobs, environmental protection and public transportation, really a long litany of social ills. Unfortunately, media coverage of this aspect of the call has been scant at best, perhaps because proposals like those will not make for striking headlines, and, maybe more likely, because those in the public eye calling for change do not yet have a good grasp of what needs to be done.
John D. Tobin Jr., St. Paul
Trust the doctor, and the process
Thank you for the article in support of Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner (“Autopsy examiner in Floyd case defended as ‘fair-minded,’ ” June 19). The reaction to the preliminary report was unfortunate and damaged the reputation of Dr. Baker and his office. It is unfortunate that so many educated people were not just unaware of the process but never bothered to understand and jumped to the conclusion they wanted to hear. “Preliminary” is just what it means. In the end, the two autopsy reports of George Floyd are nearly identical.
Apologies to Dr. Baker and thank you for not jumping to the desired conclusion.
Mark Odland, Edina
Treat them all with complexity
Jennifer Brooks wrote a thoughtful and thought-provoking column about the toppling of the Columbus statue at the Capitol (“History at Capitol isn’t carved in stone,” June 18).
But there was one jarring sentence in the piece: “You can find two statues of aviator and Nazi enthusiast Charles Lindbergh at the Capitol.”
In an opinion piece that delves into the complexity and need to understand the historical background of our heroes and villains, I found the cavalier and shallow reference disturbing.
Lindbergh remains one of the most complex and interesting characters in the American pantheon. His historic flight opened up the world of aviation. He invented a biomedical pump that helped develop the science of heart surgeries. His support of Robert Goddard helped America lead the world for a time in rocketry. He was spokesman for millions in trying to keep the U.S. from the war, and when war was declared, he flew 50 combat missions as a civilian and made useful suggestions on improving our military. He spent much of his later life promoting environmental causes.
He has been accused of anti-Semitism, which he denied. He was an advocate of eugenics. He accepted a medal from Hermann Goering, which he refused to return. He fathered seven children with three women while still married to Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
OK, let’s sum all that up with “aviator and Nazi enthusiast.” Doesn’t seem to capture the essential Lindbergh, does it? Or, as Brooks stated: “If you listen to just one side of history over and over, you can miss the most important parts and the most interesting people.”
Al Zdon, St. Paul
Good work, firefighters
Great job to the Minneapolis firefighters for their work during the very difficult circumstances they were up against during the nights of unrest in the city (“Firefighters blast city riot response,” June 18). I was personally very proud of all of you for the hard work that you did while putting your lives on the line. Hopefully your mayor and fire chief have some emotional empathy and understanding toward all of you and what you all had to endure and experience during those nights.
Please also know that post-traumatic stress disorder is very real. All fire chiefs need to recognize that and take it seriously because there are lasting consequences for those who do not seek or ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out. PTSD or any other symptoms related to what you witnessed or experienced can be treated.
Mark Olson, St. Louis Park
The writer is a retired firefighter and trauma therapist.
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