Another major area we focus on is using communication to de-escalate tense situations. Our best officers rarely have to fight with people and are able to gain cooperation through talking. I've heard of one college teaching something called "ask, tell, make." This is terrible way to teach potential police officers and leads to problems that make the news.
As chief I also am keenly aware of the need to balance use of force and officer safety. That balance is like walking a tightrope for our officers. I am concerned that an officer or individual could get hurt because of a decision not to take action for fear of discipline. But because of our hiring, training and practices, Duluth officers clearly understand the need to communicate and slow incidents down with the intent of resolving things peacefully.
As the recent past president of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, I have again been hearing from chiefs about the difficulties in finding and hiring suitable officer candidates. There was a recent story in the Star Tribune that highlighted the lack of diversity in many urban and suburban police departments in Minnesota. I believe it is time for a change to the Minnesota police licensing system because the current licensing requirements filter out valuable second-career candidates, the poor and people of color. While in the '70s and '80s this system helped improve our education and training requirements, it simply has not kept up with the evolution of policing.
Currently, if someone with a four-year degree in business or social work wants to become a police officer in Minnesota, they will need to go back to school for a year and then put themselves through a full-time academy at their own expense. It is time for a change. I am hopeful that our elected officials see the need for changes to current requirements to help increase the pool of candidates that our communities are seeking.
With 700,000-plus police officers in this country, you are going to have some abuse their authority. But the overwhelming majority of police officers have a service-before-self mentality and want to build healthy, positive relationships with those we serve