A recent letter to the editor offers several common-sense ideas for meaningful police reform, including powerful citizen review boards, limits on arbitration and hiring officers who live in their communities ("Let's tackle real reform," Readers Write, Sept. 21).
Most people will not question these reforms. The real question is, why aren't these reforms already in place? The answer is police culture, both nationally and locally.
A 2016 study examined use of force in police departments in Texas, Florida and California. The study showed that Black men and women are more likely to be physically abused than people of other races, even if they cooperated with police. The study's author, Roland Fryer, noted the effect this treatment has on community trust:
"Who the hell wants to have a police officer put their hand on them or yell and scream at them? It's an awful experience," Fryer said. "Every Black man I know has had this experience. Every one of them. It is hard to believe that the world is your oyster if the police can rough you up without punishment. And when I talked to minority youth, almost every single one of them mentions lower-level uses of force as the reason why they believe the world is corrupt."
After George Floyd's murder, the head of the Minneapolis police union suggested that Derek Chauvin and the other officers involved were terminated without due process.
It is understandable that the public lost trust in the Minneapolis Police Department. Unless police officers start to demand reforms, public trust will continue to erode.
Terrance Newby, Roseville
In response to the Sept. 21 letter on how police culture is rotten to the core: Yes, police culture does need to change and can change. This is no different from the changes that needed to take place in the aviation industry and in hospitals. Both of these industries had cultures of hierarchy, fear and intimidation. In hospitals, nurses were fearful of retribution should they confront a physician regarding treatment of a patient. Silence led to wrong-site surgeries, medication errors and even patient deaths. It wasn't until the industry awakened to understand that a climate of fear reduced quality and harmed patients that we saw change. Minnesota's nation-leading effort to report "never events" in hospitals facilitated these changes.
Police culture needs to change with removing fear of retribution and transparency of reporting misbehavior. The police union would be wise to lead this effort as champions of building community trust. The union has great examples in other industries to learn from.
Robert Stevens, Mound
Kudos to the St. Paul Police Department for its commitment to enhancing public safety while reducing escalated violent encounters with police ("Encouraging results from St. Paul police," editorial, Sept. 21). While teaching martial arts (as the editorial emphasizes) was surely part of the success, I suspect that teaching police multiple tactics that actually work with clients who refuse to comply is a bigger part of the success. Professionals with behavior-management responsibilities (teachers, bus drivers, librarians, police, etc.) are finding that the behavior management parts of their jobs are increasingly difficult and that they lack in options. By introducing professional training that focuses more on skills and effective methods but assumes good intentions, we will more likely produce better results than training that assumes the worst of intentions. Training that casts aspersions on professionals based on the behavior of the very worst in their profession often increases defensiveness and can produce results that are opposite of the desired outcomes.
The other element of the St. Paul approach seems to be the ongoing measurement of benchmark metrics that are directly correlated to the problem the department was trying to correct. An adage from industrial psych states that "what gets measured is what gets changed."
While not mentioned in the editorial, I suspect that the work of the St. Paul Community Ambassadors Initiative working in tandem with the SPPD has helped de-escalate dangerous encounters well before police are needed. Rather than eliminating police resources in any of our communities, we need to focus on the specific changes that will get us to where we want to be.
David Wilmes, Roseville
Do kids really need this?
I cannot believe we are actually considering giving children a vaccine for a disease that, overwhelmingly, does not affect them ("Kids 5-11 could get shots by Oct. 31," front page, Sept. 21).
Since the pandemic began, fewer than 500 children ages 17 and younger have died from COVID, according to the CDC. More children in the same period of COVID have died in car crashes. In July, Johns Hopkins did a study of 48,000 children under 18 who had COVID between April and August 2020, and were unable to find a single death of a child without a pre-existing medical condition like leukemia. Not a single death.
Since the vaccine industry and the fearmongering media can't make a case for protecting children from death, they continually cite "cases." But more kids getting a disease that gives them mild symptoms (if any symptoms at all) is not a reason to vaccinate them. We're also hearing about "a rise of hospitalizations" but without information about whether the hospitalized children have serious pre-existing conditions.
The worst reason to give children a vaccine is to "protect" adults. Adults are supposed to protect children, not the other way around. A healthy society does not use children as shields.
We have absolutely no idea what the long-term effects of this vaccine are. Adults can weigh the odds for themselves and decide whether those unknown side effects are worth the benefit of the vaccine. But we do not have the right to use healthy children as guinea pigs in this experiment.
The Star Tribune printed a New York Times article on this topic, and the activist reporter wrote that "the need is urgent" to give children this vaccine. It is not.
Catherine Walker, Minneapolis
The ship was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The young mother's son was hot, limp and lethargic. She was terrified he had contracted the polio virus, responsible for crippling so many, rendering them dependent on crutches to walk, or even contraptions called iron lungs to breathe. She was a recent immigrant from England, taking her two toddlers back to see family while her World War II veteran husband stayed home in the U.S. to work.
That woman was my mother. I was the sick child. Thanks goodness, it was not polio.
Fortunately, polio is no longer the scourge it once was (at least here in the U.S.), thanks to the imperfect but widely accepted vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.
I find myself wondering if many parents today fear for their children the way my mother feared for me.
There are valid concerns on various sides of the COVID vaccine issue. It is my hope that as Americans we can work through those concerns and eventually have COVID join the ranks of defeated diseases like polio.
If you're hesitant, please ask someone you trust for information and guidance.
If you're vaccinated, don't judge or sermonize. Listen.
Paul Wehrwein, St. Paul
As an institution expected to value freedom — for example, freedom of the press — the Star Tribune's editorial criticism of GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen is misguided ("Reckless COVID talk will hurt, not heal," editorial, Sept. 19).
We can also debate the merit of the COVID vaccine, but the core issue is the act of having it forced upon us through government mandates.
At the same time President Joe Biden is insisting it's our constitutional right to go kill more babies through abortion, he also insists we citizens are to submit to the government's dictate of what gets injected into our bodies.
Jensen's plan values individual freedom to make our own health care decisions, and seeks to bypass or overcome the government invading that aspect of our lives.
You would be wise to support Jensen's plan rather than criticize it. Otherwise, without freedom, you will end up publishing only what the government tells you to. Or is that what's happening already?
Dale Kovar, Mayer, Minn.
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