When I was a kid in the 1950s, growing up in a small central Minnesota town, there was no FM radio, and in summer storm season sometimes the only station close enough to get through the static was KASM in Albany, Minn. — which of course we had to have on, as it was our only real chance of getting tornado warnings ("AM radio — a rural lifeline," June 21). Many was the afternoon that Mom's kitchen radio would be intoning sales figures for "hogs, barrows and gilts" and the like (I know what a hog is, but the other two are still a mystery to me, though at one time I could have told you what their prospects were worth). Every afternoon for an hour there would be a "Mass for the conversion of Russia" when, for an hour, the soundtrack of our Lutheran home was a priest and his congregation chanting the rosary, as a result of which to this day I can recite the Hail Mary better than most of my lapsed Catholic friends.
I was sad when AM radio fell into the pit of talk radio, bringing out the worst in every caller, though I did pick up some good new music from the Spanish stations. AM radio will always be, for me, summer days in a simpler era.
Steve Hoffmann, Anoka
Streamline the process for kids
With a backlog of 23,000 pending cases in Minnesota's immigration court, lawyers, judges and people seeking safety alike are understandably unhappy and frustrated with the system ("Asylum seekers wait ... and wait some more," June 11). As a state circuit court judge in a neighboring state, I have a few ideas to help streamline the current pileup of cases in Minnesota and across the country.
Among the immigrants waiting for their status to be determined are children seeking safety in the United States who come without a parent or guardian. From October 2022 to April 2023, 680 unaccompanied children were released to sponsors in Minnesota.
Children are particularly harmed by the uncertainty and fear that accompanies the long wait times. One way to ensure the efficient, fair and more humane processing of cases is to increase access to legal representation, which is particularly essential for unaccompanied children. With counsel, these children are more likely to receive a fair decision that uses fewer court resources. Lawyers help their clients overcome language barriers, navigate a complex legal system and help them access crucial social services like health care and education.
Another solution is to establish a separate children's court or specialized children's dockets. If the complicated web of immigration laws in the United States is confusing to most adults, it is almost impossibly opaque to children. Just as there are separate juvenile proceedings in other types of courts, including family and criminal court, separating the process for children in immigration proceedings could help prioritize their well-being and recognize their unique vulnerabilities.
Ramona Gonzalez, La Crosse, Wis.
The writer is a Wisconsin State Circuit Court judge.
So much for inclusion
It was troubling to read about U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland's damning determination of widespread racism within and inappropriate tactics used by the Minneapolis Police Department ("DOJ calls MPD to account," June 17). While the 99% of the brave men and women of the MPD who risk their lives every day to keep us safe should be celebrated, clearly swift steps need to be taken to rout out the insidious forces these findings uncovered.
There also should be accountability. And Minneapolis voters must remember that this toxic culture within the Minneapolis police force was allowed to grow under the watch of a city government completely controlled by the DFL. For all of the extolling Democrats do about diversity, equity and inclusion, they sure did a poor job of snipping away at the blatant racism right under their own nose here in Minneapolis, where Republicans haven't had one iota of power in decades.
This report is further evidence that the status quo leadership in Minneapolis doesn't work. Maybe we should try electing a Republican if the city is truly ready for a change? As a resident of declining downtown Minneapolis, I can certainly attest to the fact that Minneapolis sure needs it.
Ward Brehm, Minneapolis
Both the city of Minneapolis and the city of Louisville have signed agreements to negotiate consent decrees with the U.S. Department of Justice to remedy a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. These consent decrees normally last more than a decade and cost local taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
After a city signs a settlement agreement with DOJ, what can the police department do to reach compliance in the shortest amount of time possible? While compliance is subjective and determined by the monitor and federal judge, there are actions that a police department can take to produce the numbers that DOJ wants to see. DOJ's objective is to reduce uses of force (especially deadly force), complaints and lawsuits and eliminate racial disparities in policing data. DOJ does not care what causes these declines as long as the numbers are headed in the right direction.
I represented the city of Seattle when DOJ conducted a pattern or practice investigation of the Seattle Police Department in 2011. I negotiated the federal consent decree with DOJ, and the mayor appointed me to be the compliance coordinator to oversee the reform process. Here are some suggestions that I have put together that will rapidly produce the numbers that DOJ wants to see.
These are not good policies. These policies will harm officers and the community and will reduce public safety, but they will allow a police department to get out of a consent decree much quicker. Once a consent decree is over, DOJ will never return.
Here is a five-point Consent Decree Rapid Compliance strategy:
- Eliminate all discretionary officer-initiated stops, including traffic stops. The fewer stops officers make, the fewer complaints and uses of force they will have.
- Do not enforce traffic laws, and do not make arrests for property crimes or other "minor" offenses.
- Implement a racial quota system. The racial composition of stops, searches, arrests and uses of force must match the population. Once the monthly quota has been reached for a racial group, no other law enforcement action may be taken against members of that group.
- Do not allow officers to use deadly force unless they are shot at or stabbed first. This may not reduce officer-involved shootings enough to satisfy DOJ, so the department may need to prohibit officers from carrying firearms.
- Decommission 50% of the city's police force and assign them to respond to nonviolent 911 calls. These individuals cannot take law enforcement action, but they can provide other services and assistance to victims and suspects.
Seattle police officers had a term for this type of strategy: NC/NC ("No Contact/No Complaint"). After a consent decree is imposed, most cities will see a dramatic reduction in proactive policing as officers disengage with the community to meet DOJ's expectations for their performance.
I guarantee that this strategy will produce the results that DOJ is looking for and will significantly reduce the length and cost of consent decrees.
Bob Scales, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
The writer is CEO of Police Strategies LLC.