There was a letter printed in the Star Tribune after Philando Castile's death that still resonates with me. It was about the need for police officers to have more weapons that are nonlethal.
There is no way the police can protect the public and themselves without lethal firearms until something is developed to give them a better alternative. It seems more resources should be devoted to researching and developing nonlethal weapons that can be used like a firearm. Having both a Taser and a firearm doesn't seem to be working well.
That being said, police reform has to be the No. 1 priority. Traffic stops should never escalate to a deadly situation. The fact that many in the Black community fear for their lives when stopped on the road by police is horrible — no one should ever have to feel that way.
The mind-set of policing has to change. What motivates police to draw weapons at traffic stops — fear, the need to be in a position of power, racism, bullying?
What can we do to better recruit the right type of people for these important and dangerous jobs, train them in a way that de-escalates instead of escalates, and still give them the tools to protect and serve? Listening to the community, current officers and experts in this field seems like a good place to start. That needs to happen at every level — city, county, state and nation — before more lives are lost.
Brian Selvig, St. Michael
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It is infuriating that the Star Tribune wasted space on the opinion pages printing the racist narrative implying that Daunte Wright's death was somehow justified because he resisted arrest.
He resisted arrest ... so what? The police had every opportunity to handle that situation differently without even drawing a weapon. It's this power-and-control-at-any-cost attitude of police in these situations that sets the stage for the unnecessary escalations and use of weapons.
The comply-or-die narrative is sick and racist. It is exactly what is broken in the relationship between police and people of color. Anyone who thinks they can wash their hands of this killing with that narrative is embracing a racist narrative.
The police are not judge, jury and executioner. Wright was not on trial by police. There is something called due process.
It is a fact that a disproportionate number of people of color are pulled over for minor traffic stops. It is a fact that more people of color end up killed by police.
Resisting arrest is not a reason for a young Black person to end up dead. That is a racist narrative. Until we kill that narrative nothing is going to change. It is a rationalization and a justification rooted in racism.
Let's start putting that into perspective, then we will see some change.
Betti Ingman, St. Paul
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The current militarized approach to controlling public protests has not been working; it only adds to the distrust and anger. So I would like to suggest a radical alternative:
When emotions at a protest start getting ugly, the police should start singing songs. I would suggest upbeat patriotic songs like "America the Beautiful," "My Country 'Tis of Thee," "This Land is Your Land," and familiar songs like "Dancing in the Street," "My Girl," "All You Need Is Love," "Moonlight Bay," "A Little Help From My Friends." You get the idea — all happy, upbeat songs that many people in the crowd would know well enough to join in. (Younger people than me could suggest more recent songs.) No angry songs, no marches, no rallying cries — just peaceful songs.
Research has shown that people who participate in a shared activity, like singing or dancing, form a bond. If some of the peaceful protesters joined in singing with the police, that could reinforce the shared humanity and reduce tensions.
Crazy? You betcha. But is the current approach working?
Tim Bardell, St. Louis Park
Not what we need right now
Would Star Tribune Opinion editors please enlighten readers on the value added of including two provocative pieces by columnist John Kass in a week? On April 9, the Chicago Tribune writer weighed in with ahistoric imaginings on Major League Baseball and racial history, while also adding ad hominem attacks on Black Georgia voting rights leader Stacey Abrams ("Biden throws out a pitch for America's new pastime: race baiting").
On April 15, in a lengthy column, he turned his cloudy lens on the Daunte Wright tragedy ("The whole world is watching Minnesota"). Among other items in this poorly reasoned screed, he intones that "perhaps in the interests of payback for racism of the past, we're on the verge of abandoning ... due process."
Kass' chief complaint centers on Brooklyn Center's city manager Curt Boganey being released from his position following Daunte Wright's killing. Dragging in the charge of racial payback is an unproven speculation that only serves to sow discord. (And Kass' sneer that racism is something relegated to the "past" is almost laughably ill-considered.) In any case, far from being a due process travesty, Boganey's removal seemed to have followed accepted procedure, and the Brooklyn Center council voted to give command authority over the Police Department to the office of Mayor Mike Elliott. As Elliott tweeted, "At such a tough time, this will streamline things and establish a chain of command and leadership."
Minneapolis and indeed our entire state are working through a time of tension, trauma and grief. The last thing we need are unhelpful innuendos from an outsider pouring salt on our collective wounds with his reckless opining.
Gerri Williams, Duluth
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It's been an emotionally wrenching year for the Twin Cities, from the grinding persistence of the pandemic to the seismic shocks of George Floyd and Daunte Wright. In the face of anxiety and rising anger over events that seem out of anyone's control and a measure of devotion to a world that has usually worked in my favor, I temper my emotions with reminders that current societal structures don't work for everyone and are clearly in need of some basic change, that my generation doesn't have all the answers and that the world is a better place if we place some level of trust in the good intentions of others.
No such tempering is apparent in the world of John Kass, whose world is full of threatening actors conspiring to disrupt the comfort of the status quo, all driven by a toxic mix of untamed emotion, nefarious motives and fuzzy thinking. He knows their essence and labels each and every one. Stacey Abrams is a failure, anyone who puts Jim Crow and election integrity legislation in the same sentence is a demagogue, and those on the left cower, panic and abandon their values at every turn. Right here in Minnesota, Kass has determined the motives and emotional state of Brooklyn Center council member Kris Lawrence-Anderson. (Spoiler: She offers up the head of a co-worker.) Kass is in a rare position to help lower the rhetorical temperature and make sense of a very confusing time, but his abilities and inclinations are limited to fanning the flames.
What can John Kass offer your readers in this time of so much confusion, anger and sorrow? Answer: a lack of compassion for others, a poor illumination of the foundation-shaking times in which we live, and a shallow and cynical view of humanity in general. In other words, not much.
John L. Ibele, Minneapolis
Was that necessary?
On the front page of the Star Tribune on Friday we were told that former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter made her first court appearance in a plaid shirt. Important detail. Who knows what could've happened had she worn stripes!