D.J. Tice's thought-provoking column about policing levels in the United States compared with those in other developed nations left me scratching my head over its chief statistical metric — the number of police officers per homicide ("One nation, underpoliced, with injustice for all," Opinion Exchange, Sept. 4).
By that measure, Tice and the Harvard study he cites argue, American streets are woefully underpoliced, by a factor of nine against a peer-nation average. Pretty startling, no? But so is the gap in homicide rates, typically 10 times greater here and more than 20 times in the comparison with Japan.
This real American carnage is largely no thanks to our country's 18th-century firearms freedom principle now molded into a near suicide pact in the 21st by the gun industry and its political and judicial servants. Still, you might argue, more deadly crime should call for more crime fighters.
Not so fast. By and large, police and the rest of the criminal justice system may deter crime, but they seldom prevent it. I'm reminded of two St. Paul police homicide squad commanders I knew as a Star Tribune reporter decades ago.
One joked about his "homicide prevention squad," the other handed out coffee mugs with the slogan: "Our day begins when yours ends."
Based on population, the U.S. policing level closely matches those elsewhere. And I'm waiting to see any evidence that supersizing it would reduce violent crime, officer anxiety or mass incarceration.
Conrad deFiebre, Minneapolis
On Sept. 4 a single page in the Star Tribune was quite expository.
Tice's commentary featured insightful analysis by two professors who have studied criminal statistics. The observation about America that struck me the most was that "peer countries ... do better by confronting would-be offenders with a high probability of apprehension and punishment, albeit comparatively mild punishment." One result is that too many unlucky-to-be-caught offenders facing our smaller police forces shoot it out trying to escape harsh punishment.
On the same page, Charles Blow's commentary ("'Defund the Police' is dead. Now what?") quoted the Washington Post: "Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. ... Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate." Blow then asked, "What do we do about this?" He overlooked the best short-term answer — gun control. Connect the dots between Tice's and Blow's comments. Too many alleged offenders use guns and actually make themselves targets in the process.
Blow suggested "redirecting some of the money police departments receive toward other services," presumably to help resolve some of the underlying factors in crime. He overlooked another option — adequately funding both police and social causes. Of course, that would probably mean collecting more taxes. Many conservatives will have a negative reaction: Throwing money at the problem won't solve it.
Of course, there will be waste. Any human endeavor of size involves waste. Why else do we have wastebaskets?
Human frailties are a fact of life. That doesn't mean we throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
Jim Bartos, Maple Grove
Crime is high, but here's context
I'm getting a little tired of letters and articles in these pages, often written by people who do not even live here, solely blaming liberal policies for the recent crime surge in Minneapolis. Rarely, or if at all, are these facts mentioned:
- We are coming out of a pandemic and crime has increased all over the country — in red and blue areas alike.
- The Minneapolis Police Department has had police brutality issues for decades and a third of the force recently retired or quit.
- The police have not been defunded.
- We are only two years removed from the most divisive and mean-spirited administration in the history of our country.
- Guns flood our cities. More guns in more hands means more shootings.
I could go on. I'm not saying liberals are perfect, but this city is an economic and social engine that has been run by liberals for generations. The past few years have been an outlier, and I agree that Minneapolis is in transition and will get better.
Scott McGlasson, Minneapolis
Visual deterrence needed
Regarding "Minnesotans are 'driving like crazy,' and it's killing people" (Sept. 6):
Col. Matt Langer of the State Patrol is quoted as saying, "If people don't see the enforcement happening, then the deterrent effect doesn't work." I can think of one good way to help that: Have police departments drop all the stealth, unmarked police cars. The "gotcha" nature of this kind of enforcement is troubling. Police departments appear to use them because they claim that they are effective at catching speeders. But should the public first have to suffer the speeder's behavior before the ticket is handed out, or could discouragement in the first place with clearly marked vehicles be the safer option?
Michael Bendzick, Falcon Heights
Yes, Minnesotans are driving like crazy and killing people. Try driving the speed limit, and you will be in the slowest car on the road. The solution is simple: technology, such as radar and cameras along roads and intersections. The fines will pay for the cost of installation. This will require legislative approval, so it will be interesting to see if the Legislature wants to maintain the status quo where everyone can cheat, kind of like the objection to adding more IRS auditors, which would reduce tax fraud.
Edgar M. Morsman Jr., Plymouth
Would've helped younger me
Rachel Frazin is absolutely spot on in her assessment and recommendation of social-emotional learning needing to be a requirement in pre-K through high school graduation ("Social-emotional learning should be a core subject in school," Opinion Exchange, Sept. 6). I am so glad her opinion made it into the Star Tribune. I could have greatly benefited from learning about emotions and how to regulate them when I was growing up. Trauma and parental dysfunction aren't supportive for learning emotional regulation, self-connection or self-esteem. In fact, it often produces the opposite.
While I was in so much emotional pain and didn't understand how to deal with it, I started acting out in all sorts of addictive, self-destructive ways and contemplating suicide. Fortunately, divine intervention happened, and I sought help in my junior year of high school, where my counselor immediately recommended inpatient drug treatment and talked with my parents. Luckily, we had insurance, and I went through treatment. The inpatient psychiatrist recommended sticking it out at home and moving out immediately upon graduation. After treatment, I received support from my 12-step groups and started a full-time job the day after I graduated, moving out shortly thereafter.
My healing journey has continued for my entire adult life. I now understand I am rewiring my brain toward healthy emotional regulation and well-being in the world.
Karen Cox, Circle Pines