Regarding the reader who asks, "Wouldn't a good place to start showing we're serious about eliminating gun violence be with disarming the police?" ("Without a gun, you can't shoot," Readers Write, April 13.) Let me think. Guns are widely in the hands of gangs, including those who shot at each other across a public park last year while a youth football team was trying to practice there. We have had a rash of armed carjackings. We have record numbers of people applying for concealed carry permits, presumably because they want to be able to carry a gun around with them wherever they go. So, let's have the police be the only ones who don't have guns. What could possibly go wrong?
Kent B. Hanson, Minneapolis
• • •
I agree with the writer yesterday who argued that perhaps we should rethink the "cops carrying guns" thing. I'm a big fan of data and if the data indicate that cops carrying guns does more harm than good, let's stop doing it. Cops are supposed to protect us, not kill us. If we can't train them better than this ("Police chief: Officer apparently meant to fire Taser, not gun, at Daunte Wright," April 12), then we shouldn't give them the tools to end promising lives so easily. We need to stop this madness.
Jim Cotner, St. Paul
• • •
In the Philando Castile case and now the Daunte Wright case, it appears that police officers drew their weapons very, very quickly — within seconds of the traffic stop. Among the questions that raises is this: Does drawing the weapon in fact reduce an officer's freedom of movement and choice of responses? He or she now has only one hand free, the weaker hand. Plus the weapon, out of the holster, is vulnerable to being dropped or taken away. So the officer can't, for example, grab or tackle the suspect. If this analysis is right, once the weapon is out, it becomes the officer's only available tool, and that does not seem good for anyone.
Paul Nelson, St. Paul
• • •
"It felt a little light" was one of my favorite lines from the movie "The Bourne Supremacy." "It," the gun, felt light because Bourne had emptied the bullets from the handgun. The bullets alone could weigh close to a half pound. A fully loaded handgun used by police might weigh a couple pounds. A Taser might weigh as little as a half pound. And, the grips on the two would feel different. The locations on the holster would differ also.
It appears that training and supervision of Brooklyn Center police officers is insufficient, much like that for Minneapolis police officers. The 26-year veteran police officer obviously received insufficient training in differentiating between handgun and Taser, based on specs of both. The officer should have said "It felt a little heavy" before pulling the trigger.
Attorney Benjamin Crump could move his practice to the Twin Cities and maybe have a full calendar representing families of Black men killed by police.
Wayne Dokken, Robbinsdale
• • •
Yesterday I listened to government officials lecture the public on being peaceful in the wake of another police killing of an unarmed Black man. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced a curfew for 7 p.m. to be imposed on the citizens who did not kill Daunte Wright. When a reporter asked if people would be arrested if they attended the vigil the family had planned, Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington replied, "I can't answer that." (Incidentally, the vigil start time was moved to 6 p.m.)
Videos from Sunday night show riot police descending on the Brooklyn Center neighborhood with militarized force, showering protesters with tear gas and terrorizing an already terrorized community. If you don't want rocks thrown at police officers, the officers should leave. If you do not want people damaging police cars, move the police cars. The police were the targets of the community's rage and grief because the police committed the crime.
It is galling that our public officials can marshal the resources to flood the area with police and National Guard members lest there be damage to a Target facade and yet have no effective plan to prevent the need to send them there in the first place.
There is a lot that must happen to ensure Wright is the last Black person killed by Twin Cities police. One response should be that when the police commit extrajudicial killings, the police cannot serve as "peacekeepers" in the aftermath of the very crisis they caused. We should immediately assemble a peacekeeping association populated by faith leaders, community elders or anyone who truly has the well-being of the people in mind.
Since traffic stops are so deadly, I'd also suggest a curfew for the police so Black Minnesotans know when it's safe to drive.
Megan Buron Gavin, St. Paul
• • •
Just hours after a Brooklyn Center police officer shot and killed Wright, the Brooklyn Center police chief announced his belief that the shooting was accidental. "It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet." Then: "This appears to me, from what I've viewed and the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright."
The police chief's announcement raises a number of questions. Outraged citizens are chided for jumping to conclusions, and urged to "let all the facts come in" before making any pronouncements on what happened. Yet in this case, the police chief has announced his "belief" that Wright's killing was accidental, before any investigation has taken place. One can only hope that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and other agencies will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether the shooting was "accidental." It seems premature for the chief to announce that conclusion now.
The officer's state of mind and intent at the time of the shooting will be critical. Transparency is admirable, but one wonders whether this is an attempt to "poison the well" of any future investigation.
Terrance Newby, Roseville
• • •
We are awash in police killings. And it continues even as we are witnessing the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd's murder. Yet it continues day in and day out. One cannot escape asking the question, "What is wrong with law enforcement in general that it continues such behavior?" The first answer is inevitably "racism." True enough, but insufficient since police kill whites as well, and Black officers kill Black men. Something deeper is at work here.
The underlying cause is power. We have given law enforcement a carte-blanche license to kill, and they use it, and use it habitually. This situation brings to the profession people who are attracted to power and its use, particularly the power to summarily execute without penalty anyone who does not fully obey their every command.
The power matter is clear even with the rationale given for the Brooklyn Center killing where the department believably says the officer thought she was using a Taser, not a firearm. Why in heaven's name would the officer bother using even a disabling weapon?
Until we recognize the role of power we can expect deaths to continue until policing power is brought under control.
Louis Lavoie, Plymouth
• • •
I want to thank Myron Medcalf for sharing his experiences and insights with Minnesota public. Thank you also to the Star Tribune for supporting Mr. Medcalf's work. I especially found his April 13 column ("Blackness too often an act of resistance") helpful in the aftermath of Wright's death. "Stops can happen for a multitude of reasons. But every Black person across this state is somehow tasked with de-escalation in those moments." How utterly exhausting that must be. And how misplaced is that responsibility — the power is in the hands of someone else.
Carrie Borcharft, Apple Valley
We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts here.