In an effort to clear a couple of playing fields so our city and state can move forward in peace, trust and mutual desire to walk together in achieving the common good we all seek:

The Minneapolis Police Department, such as it is, is going to change, we know this, and it is something most citizens agree upon.

Seems semantics are making it difficult to understand how each of us wants those changes to develop. Might the words “dismantle, defund, abolish, reconstruct and reform,” mean the same to all? Are they meant to mean the same? Close? If not, then perhaps these words used loosely and together are the reason for all the emotion evoked around them. Some clarity might serve to stop the madness and allow all to come together to make this model change of the Minneapolis Police Department’s role in our city.

Next playing field for clearing:

I have seen articles, publications and comments from all sources of news media, all over our state and country, making reference to the organization that a week ago asked Mayor Jacob Frey for a “yes or no answer” on his plans for changing the Minneapolis Police Department as being the Black Lives Matter movement.

It was not Black Lives Matter, it was the Black Visions Collective.

In fairness to each, I think it is important to make this distinction and get it right.

Patricia Hoy, Minneapolis

• • •

There’s a lot of naive idealism swirling around police reform, including responding to 911 domestic violence calls with unarmed social workers. Such calls are considered high-risk by responding police officers, as weapons often are in possession by offenders in acute high anger/intoxicated states of mind. Such calls have higher rate of police being wounded/killed than other calls.

Disarming police in a society that won’t ban guns for the general public is absurd. Sending unarmed responders to calls where anything can happen is absurd and irresponsible. How many social workers are going to be on call all night, on weekends, willing to get out of bed at 3 a.m. during a snowstorm in January to go bust up a domestic call, be it in Edina or north Minneapolis? How many social workers are willing to get police training, just as police training should now include social work?

Folk wisdom, evolved over time from hard-learned experience, brings to mind the old saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The water may be murky, but there’s a baby there somewhere in need of saving. We have a police force that needs help. All police in Minneapolis force should be interviewed for valuable input that could improve peacekeeping in this city for all citizens. Changes should be implemented with the help of our police men and women.

Denise Saupe, Minneapolis

• • •

Are the good people of Minneapolis going to stand by and let the loonies take over? I have voted liberal my entire life, and am deeply concerned about a small, very vocal group of extremists trying to hijack the Democratic Party. They seem to have the ability to infect the DFL just as the Tea Party movement ruined the Republican Party.

We need calm, measured voices in a crisis. It’s obvious we need change; however, it makes no sense to dismantle the Police Department without having a logical plan in place. Minneapolis city property taxes are very high, and we, the people who pay for the privilege of living in a great city, have reasonable expectations of safety and security.

The City Council should be replaced. Council members’ priorities are pathetic — people were getting killed, the police were out of control and the cost of housing was skyrocketing, and they were fixated on more bike lanes, plastic bags and condos for millionaires.

We need mature leadership. Just because your parents and teachers told you that you were brilliant and empowered and you all got a trophy doesn’t mean that you are in any way qualified to speak for the majority of city dwellers. It’s time for rational liberals to speak up and vote them out.

Linda Benzinger, Minneapolis

• • •

To the citizens:

You need a police force, but you can’t abide this police force. The city doesn’t need more police, they need better police. Here’s how to get them.

First, you have to cull your department of all the known bad actors. You can do that by firing them, but that’s difficult to accomplish and leads to years of litigation. You could close the department and then hire back only those you want. Businesses do this; that’s what happened in the mid-1980s between Hormel and the P-9 union. But the easiest route is to offer buyouts to those officers you don’t want. Encourage them to take it. This will be less costly over time than the couple of million bucks you’ve paid out in the last few years to settle claims against your department.

Second, you have to stop hiring ex-military police and people with two-year degrees in criminal justice. That’s what you’ve got now, and look what it’s gotten you. You need to start recruiting and hiring people with four-year degrees in humanities. English, history, psychology and sociology would be good choices. You want officers who see the human in humanity. Expect to offer better salaries in order to get these folks.

Third, you really need better training, and then more training, and then more training after that. Officers need training in de-escalation, empathy, and recognizing mental or emotional stress. An agitated woman with a knife in her apartment does not need to die in a hail of police bullets. A man sitting in his car does not need to die with an officer’s knee on his neck. Ask any competent human resource development manager, and they’ll tell you pre-test, training, post-test. Repeat. Repeat again.

The MPD is the problem. The solution is better candidates, better pay, better training.

Michael Alwin, Woodbury

The writer is a former Minneapolis resident.


Concern for fair trials should have been present all along

I have watched the discussion around now-­former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s arrest and forthcoming trial in connection with the death of George Floyd with both interest and bafflement. Many have written into this paper about their concern that he receive a fair trial. I don’t disagree. But I do have questions about what a fair trial means, and why we as white Minnesotans are so concerned that Chauvin receives one. Where has this concern been for all of the people of color who have entered the criminal justice system?

Communities of color are wildly overrepresented in our state’s incarcerated population. Our entire judicial system works against minority communities, especially black people. White people are conditioned from day one to see black people — especially black men and boys — as “thugs,” or as predisposed to criminal behavior. How can any black person ever receive a fair trial if that is the water we drink as a state and as a nation?

So, yes, Chauvin deserves a fair trial. But so do all Minnesotans who are awaiting trial. And so did all the Minnesotans currently incarcerated. Concern about Chauvin without concern about all the other Minnesotans who haven’t or will not receive fair trials isn’t about fairness at all. It’s about upholding white supremacy. Black lives matter.

Madeline Hart-Andersen, Minneapolis