The announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice will be conducting a "pattern and practice" investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department gives me hope for future implementation of systemic changes in the MPD ("Justice probe is a critical next step," editorial, April 22). Why isn't this type of review a standard internal procedure at the MPD when unfavorable incidents occur? Police officers hold the life and welfare of the people they serve in their hands, not unlike my practice as a health care provider.
In my profession we have had a mechanism in place for decades to review adverse outcomes. When unfavorable incidents occur, we convene a "morbidity and mortality" conference to review what went wrong. The facts of the incident are carefully reviewed, then we determine if a policy or procedure was violated or failed in some regard. Finally, we decide on next steps to prevent a recurrence of the incident, such as by implementing a new or improved policy or procedure.
The point of the review is not to punish but to provide a mechanism to improve the care we provide to our patients by preventing a similar future occurrence. Unlike a police department, we have no "blue wall of silence."
Law enforcement seems to take the opposite approach by minimizing or even covering up these incidents. Why did it take the death of a citizen under the care and protection of a police officer and a murder conviction to stimulate a "pattern and practice" review? Perhaps if a "morbidity and mortality" type review process had been in place at the MPD, policies and procedure changes would have been implemented long ago, preventing George Floyd's death.
Steve Millikan, Minneapolis
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Some imagine that the conviction, and presumably harsh sentencing, of Derek Chauvin will send a message to Minneapolis cops, and perhaps cops everywhere, but I doubt it. It is too easy for other cops to see themselves as different from Chauvin and to say to themselves, "I would never do what Chauvin did." Some cops probably applauded Chauvin's conviction.
This makes the upcoming trial of Chauvin's alleged accomplices the far more important event. Most Minneapolis cops, and maybe most big-city cops across the country, will be able to recognize themselves in the actions of former officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao because many Minneapolis cops have perhaps themselves stood by and passively watched as a colleague used excessive force against a citizen. Perhaps, like Lane, they suggested a more moderate tactic but were ignored and allowed the use of force to continue.
We hear the argument that there are only a few "bad" cops, that the Chauvins are an exception. But there are a lot of cops like Lane, Kueng and Thao, willing, for a variety of reasons, to defer to the bad cops. Significant consequences for these three could send a message that all cops would hear.
John K. Trepp, Minneapolis
• • •
After the Chauvin verdict, several members of Floyd's family thanked protesters for their persistence in calling for justice for their father, brother and cousin. D.J. Tice, in his critique as a "13th juror" of the verdict, proposes that a better result would have emerged from a jury sealed off from the news, or even the influence, of ongoing protests ("The verdict of a '13th juror' on Chauvin — and the trial," Opinion Exchange, April 21). It's curious that a journalist — a professional surely as acquainted with real-world trauma as an emergency room nurse — could call for a courtroom so abstracted from social conditions. Do we really want people who are not moved by past experience of police brutality to sit in judgment of a former officer accused of the same? Do we really want jurors not to notice that standards of justice have historically been applied unfairly to Black citizens, and not to bring that awareness with them into the courtroom?
We cannot hope, nor should we, for a jury sequestered from the news of the world: a world that — thanks to protests — is seismically shifting for the better. What we should hope for, instead, is a legal system that reflects the progress that society is demonstrating in what it perceives as criminal.
Tim Dykstal, St. Paul
• • •
After the verdict was announced in the Chauvin trial, state Sen. Paul Gazelka said, "As we watched the verdict [on Tuesday], I don't think anybody can say that justice wasn't served and so we have a process that works" ("Seizing the momentum for reform," front page, April 22). At the same time, he is pushing legislation to enact harsher penalties against protesters, advocating voter suppression laws, stalling efforts to enact police reform, and blocking bills to reform the justice system for children. If Gazelka thinks we have a "process that works," he's working very hard to make sure it doesn't.
Karen Barstad, Minneapolis
'Eliminating' fees just moves them
As a mayor of a growing city, I am disappointed by the legislative efforts of for-profit national homebuilders (NHBs) to erode local control and fees under the pretense of delivering housing affordability ("Trade group alleges 2 cities overcharged for building permits," April 13).
City development fees represent around 5% of the price of a new home. They recover costs cities incur as infrastructure capacity (parks, roads, water, sewer) is increased to accommodate growth and cover the cost of providing services (permitting, inspections) to builders for newly built homes.
The NHBs push for a one-size-fits-all approach for zoning and fees. Consider the logic of their approach in the hypothetical cities of Meadowland and Hilldale. Meadowland is a prairie; Hilldale is mountainous with rivers and lakes. Building infrastructure in Hilldale is going to bring challenges that do not exist in Meadowland. As fees are set to recover costs, one would anticipate higher fees in Hilldale, given inherent infrastructure challenges.
If a one-size-fits-all approach fails in the hypothetical, why would it make sense to apply it across the very real 850-plus cities in Minnesota?
Any city fee on a new home that is not collected is not the elimination of a cost — it is a transfer of a cost.
I urge lawmakers to leave local zoning and fee controls in place and see the false narrative from these NHBs for what it is — an attempt to shift the costs of growth from a for-profit builder to an existing taxpayer.
Kirt Briggs, Prior Lake
The writer is the mayor of Prior Lake.
Better to face than ignore
I've seen several letters from readers complaining about John Kass' columns taking up space in the Star Tribune opinion pages ("Not what we need right now," Readers Write, April 17). I also find them offensive, but I want to commend the Star Tribune for publishing them occasionally.
Those of us who find Kass' points of view objectionable shouldn't be burying our heads in the sand. Many millions of people in this country voted for Donald Trump, and many of them would agree with some or all of what John Kass says (read the online comments to Kass' columns on the Star Tribune website for evidence). All of this stuff — and much more — is out there, and people who don't like it still need to acknowledge its existence. If nothing else, Kass' opinions should motivate all of us who disagree with them to work harder for, and contribute more to politicians, parties and organizations that are working to empower "the better angels of our nature."
Anybody who wants to hide in their own echo chamber can easily find places to do so.
Miriam Segall, Minneapolis
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