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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Preventing crises before they happen...

The recent events in Missouri have caused many in our country to examine the role of police in a free society. It is imperative for police to build trusting relationships, be restrained in our use of force whenever possible and be seen as part of the community, not an occupying force. It is my job as chief to ensure we provide our staff with direction and provide the tools and training to handle the difficult decisions they often face while serving our neighborhoods.

If you would have told me, when I entered this profession 22 years ago, that police-community relations in some areas had not improved by 2014, I would have disagreed. We know that the formula for building trust and improving relations with those we serve is through community policing. Lessons learned from terrible incidents in the early '90s like Rodney King and others made the police better at building trust and relationships. Or so I thought. I was naïve to many aspects of the realities of policing: the amount of crime, inept parenting, the terrible things people do to others and all the deceit and amount of dysfunction that exists in our society.

When I was a community policing officer in the Hillside, I found extreme satisfaction in working with community members to make a positive difference. When I took the time to get to know the people that lived and worked in my beat, they felt better because they knew and trusted me. I am a believer in community policing through and through, because of the experiences I had as we worked to reduce crime with neighbors.  One example I vividly remember occurred in 1997, when I came upon a group of African-American teens hanging out in front of the Fourth Street Market. As I approached on my police bike, a few in the group suddenly got quiet and somber. I heard one of the kids huff in a disappointed tone, "Oh, here comes the cops." I was pleased when another youth said, "That's just Gordon. He's cool, but doesn't like us hanging in front of the market."

Our staff regularly hosts and attends community meetings on neighborhood issues. We recently coordinated the largest National Night Out event in Duluth's history. We attend dozens of neighborhood events every month. There are other planned events on the books as well, such as the second annual Cops, Kids and Cars. Our police officers are making a difference every minute of every day. And while we will fumble and make mistakes from time to time, we are committed to maintaining community policing as our primary operating philosophy.

A key aspect of community policing recognizes the need for community members to be engaged and work with police to solve problems. The police cannot do it alone. Simply put, if we want to make things better, we need more people at the table working toward healthy relationships and making our community better. Before there is a crisis.

So while I talk about our department's effort prevent crime, we need more neighbors and community groups to join us in keeping our community safe and healthy. The Duluth Police Department will continue to work closely with anyone who will join us in our efforts.


  1. Chief, you and I both know of the importance of education for a racist white department and while officers may value men like officer Tusken Duluth doesn't see enough people of color policing for drug issues and in general! Also the minority that use bad police conduct to harm citizens, often returning what citizens dish out to others, should be held accountable for their actions as Jouppi was not! I hope that the community comes together to fight racism and see your community policing as part of the solution too, you often partner so well with others! Thanks for your hard work!

    1. I get you guys and gals all confused! Tinsley's I meant and I know you fight against racism and probably hate to hear me sad your department is racist but Gordon we all are!

  2. Ps. Thank your officers for their drug work at my apartment and sir I am sorry If I have angered you in any way!

  3. Sir, Verhel has been exceptional a partner as has Lt. Jeff Kazel! Please place compliments in their personal files, but thank the anonymous officers too whose names I may never know or remember!