In the days since the fatal shooting of Justine Damond, our community is left again to sit with its increasingly fraught relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department. At a time when the integrity of the department faces tough judgment in the court of public opinion (if not a court of law), I am beyond disappointed that Police Chief Janeé Harteau has put herself out of view.
The Star Tribune has reported that Harteau is out of town “on a personal commitment” but that she is receiving regular briefings on the baffling investigation into how Damond wound up dead after calling police about a possible assault. It took Harteau two days to issue a statement. This is a far cry from the hands-on leadership and accountability this community needs from its police chief.
It’s been less than two years since police shot and killed Jamar Clark, touching off protesters’ 18-day occupation of the Fourth Precinct. Just across the river in St. Paul, a jury only weeks ago acquitted a St. Anthony police officer in the shooting death of Philando Castile, who was simply driving home with his girlfriend and her daughter. Tensions are running high, to say the least.
For Harteau to be conspicuously absent during the fallout from this latest police shooting is an affront to the public. It is the chief’s responsibility to acknowledge the deep divide between her officers and many community members, and do everything she can to bridge that gap. At the most basic level, that means showing up.
Karlee Weinmann, Minneapolis
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Thirty-some years ago, we were the owners of the house Justine Damond lived in when she was killed. One New Year’s Eve we let our 13-year-old son baby-sit his younger brother and sister for the first time while we celebrated less than a mile away. We’d been calling hourly to see how things were going when right after midnight our son answered and said, “Was it OK that I answered the door for the police?” My heart stopped momentarily. It turned out that the elderly woman across the alley had her back door kicked in by two men who then robbed her, and the police were canvassing to see if anyone had heard anything.
We rushed home, not wanting to leave our kids home alone with possible bad guys in the neighborhood. Then, it was the bad guys people were afraid of, not the police.
Something has gone terribly wrong. Then, as now, the Fulton neighborhood was a pretty quiet, fairly upscale area with some property crimes but not much else. But, other things have changed significantly. There has been a continual push in the U.S. for more access to guns and gun freedoms like conceal-and-carry. It is no wonder most police are fearful when they never know who might pull out a gun. Their training has conditioned them to always believe the worst of everyone and every situation. Tensions and fear are high when someone always expects the worst. But that fear is no excuse or defense for the increasingly common case of police officers who are trigger-happy.
Today, unfortunately, I’d be as afraid of having my young (white) son answer the door for the police as I would be of the bad guys. We citizens have to demand better.
Julie Stenberg, Minneapolis
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Deepest condolences to Justine’s family, fiancé, son and friends. A lovely woman was killed by police after placing a 911 call to help another human she thought was being harmed. I cannot understand what prompted this police officer to think that dangerous force was necessary. The fact that the police appear to be withholding crucial information is just wrong. I am losing faith in our police and judicial system daily. Officer Mohamed Noor, offering condolences does not bring a beautiful, serene woman back, nor does it explain your actions.
Jeanne Kenady, St. Louis Park
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Two immigrants came to the United States searching for the American dream. One came to heal; the other, to protect. Now due to the fear and violence surrounding firearms, both have realized the American nightmare.
State Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie
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If a grievous incident involving loss of life occurred in the airline industry, the investigation would be thorough and the changes to procedures and processes that led to the incident would be swift and effective. Additionally, management follow-up to ensure understanding and compliance with the new processes would be relentless.
The focus should be on safety and the changes required to enhance it. There is no room for union and political sensitivities where safety and life are at stake.
Now is the time for our chief, our mayor, the police federation and our citizens to do a thorough, honest evaluation of our policing and make real changes to both police procedures and police culture. What we have now is not safe, not working and not acceptable.
Mike Beer, Minneapolis
Enbridge says replace Line 3; evidence shows it isn’t needed
We heard in the July 18 issue from the vice president for major projects at Enbridge Energy. Enbridge is currently asking permission to “replace” its aging Line 3 pipeline, by abandoning the pipeline and building a new one through land that has never had a pipeline before.
Anyone who follows this issue closely knows that the corporate assurances of Enbridge don’t even come close to covering all of the complicated, many-faceted issues that this project dredges up. I won’t even attempt to cover them here. But I do want to point out that the Enbridge VP omitted a major one: the fact that U.S. oil consumption is decreasing.
Currently, more than 65 percent of total U.S. oil consumption is to fuel our personal vehicles. Not only are our needs being met with existing pipelines, the U.S. is experiencing an oil glut. Unfortunately for Enbridge, while it was busy plotting its new pipeline, affordable electric-engine technology arrived. It’s no longer a futuristic dream. There’s no question that the U.S. will always consume oil, but we won’t need nearly as much of it as new technology replaces the 100-year-old internal-combustion-engine technology we currently use in our cars.
All of this raises the question: Will we need the Line 3 tar-sands oil 10 or 20 years from now? Do we even need it now? In future years, as Enbridge’s new Line 3 pipeline disintegrates and leaks into the water tables of Minnesota, will we finally realize the pipeline was unnecessary?
Enbridge is already shipping Alberta tar sands through Minnesota, in the Alberta Clipper pipeline. That’s enough. It needs to close down its current Line 3 for safety reasons, as it itself insists. But it doesn’t need to replace it. We won’t be needing it.
Janet Hill, McGregor, Minn.
MINNEAPOLIS CITY GOVERNMENT
Council members are fixated on anything but what matters
The July 18 article regarding members of the Minneapolis City Council distancing themselves from large corporations that have ties with the Trump administration shows misguided thought processes (“Mpls. leaders pressure JP Morgan”). One council member referred to “those of us who are affected by their business practices.”
My husband and I have traveled Minneapolis city streets the last few months (due to construction), and the City Council should be focused on street repair and other community issues. To be worried about corporate actions and not the people you represent is a type of narrow thinking at best.
Pat Svacina, Plymouth