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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Policing Strategies Related to Witness Intimidation

Our staff is constantly striving to be the best we can be.  We have been part of a collaborative effort to improve our response to witness intimidation related to domestic violence.   Here is a link to an article on the effort

Duluth PD continues to be a leader in policing......

Friday, December 12, 2014

Current Events in Policing

Police everywhere are in the spotlight now due to recent controversial events. For the last few weeks I haven't been able to turn on the national news without hearing about police use of force somewhere in the nation. This has caused me to think about incidents I was involved with during my career.

One took place on a September morning 16 years ago. While on duty I drove by a gas station and saw a male wearing a ski mask walk inside, carrying a duffle bag. The temperature was in the 60s, so there was no need to be wearing a ski mask.

I pulled into the gas station lot, went inside, approached him, patted him down for weapons and asked for ID. Immediately I sensed there was going to be a problem. The male seemed like he was under the influence of a chemical or suffering from mental illness.

Not wanting to disturb the small store's business, I asked him to come outside with me. He reluctantly agreed. As we were walking out, I noticed a large butcher knife protruding from a cut in his duffle bag. I told him to give me the duffle bag and he refused. I tried to take the bag away — and the fight was on.

We fell to the ground and rolled around next to the gas pump. After a few seconds I was able to throw the bag a short distance away so he could not reach the knife.  Then I felt him wrenching on my holstered handgun. I heard the sound of the leather creaking and felt the gun being pulled back and forth. I recall the surreal feeling of looking up at a 60-year-old woman pumping her gas about 4 feet away, watching this potential life-or-death battle like nothing was going on. I shouted to her to go call 911. After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only 15 seconds, I was able to overpower and subdue him until another officer arrived.

This case highlights how quickly things can escalate and the dangers our officers face. In hindsight I would have done things differently, but at the time I did not have the luxury of knowing what was about to happen. Police officers have to make serious, split-second decisions, often under extreme stress. We must remember that when judging incidents.

Duluth police make a positive impact every minute of every day in our community. While we are human and not without fault, Duluth officers focus on community policing activities and place a high value on relationships with those we serve. We train and expect our officers to de-escalate tense situations and be restrained in the use of force whenever possible.

There are times, however, when police have to use force. If you find yourself in a situation with an officer and you feel you have done nothing wrong, you still need to do what the officer tells you. Some individuals feel they do not have to obey a lawful order from the police, as I've experienced many times. People need to cooperate with police and if they feel wronged or want to make a complaint, they should do it after the interaction is over.

We want to hear about it because we care. Remember, there are cameras in the squad cars, cameras on officers and cameras on many street corners that have proven to be very valuable not only for criminal investigations, but also for complaints. I had a complaint last week that was quickly resolved by reviewing camera footage of the incident that clearly showed the officer did not do what was alleged.

We recognize and embrace the importance of building relationships with our diverse community to break down the feelings of mistrust, but it does take two willing participants to make that happen.

If you are interested in becoming part of the solution and learning more about how we train our officers and why the police do this or that, consider attending the Duluth Police Department's Citizens' Police Academy. The CPA is an informative learning process by which citizens receive classroom and field instruction on the responsibilities facing our officers. Classes are held 6-9 p.m. on Wednesdays for 11 weeks in the spring and fall. If you are interested in taking part, contact Mike Peterson at 730-5040 or email

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Current Police Events Part 1

There are many different policing styles and strategies among law enforcement agencies in this country.  In the next couple of posts I am going to highlight what we are doing in Duluth that seperates us from some other police agencies.  In Duluth, our staff have engrained themselves into the very fabric of our City.  We are the guardians, protectors and helpers of our citizenry, not a militaristic occupying army. Here is a portion of an email I sent to our City Councilors earlier this week that highlights some of our community policing efforts.

Dear Councilors,

In light of the current national events I was hoping to make you aware of our community policing efforts and values that separate us from many of the cities experiencing troubled police-community relations. 

First, our department is focused on building relationships with our community members.  We know that to break down barriers of mistrust we need to build healthy relationships with those we serve.  Every week members of our department are either attending community meetings or we are hosting them.  Whether it be community club meetings, business meetings or neighborhood meetings we are there.  We have been actively engaged with the health and wellness of our youth through programs like the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to lower the number of juveniles that are incarcerated, the new Police Activities League or spending time at the numerous youth after school programs; our officers seek out opportunities to have positive interaction with our youth.       

 Additionally, we continue to build on our Block Clubs, Neighborhood Watch and Citizen Patrols that engage hundreds and hundreds of residents.  We collaborated to bring a civilian review board to help build transparency and strengthen relationships.  We meet regularly with African American and Native American community organizations and collaborate to find opportunities for positive interaction such as the very popular “Cops, Kids and Cars” events. 

When it comes to use of force issues we focus on deescalating tense situations through verbal communication and listening.  We train to be successful at policing in a free and democratic society that must be restrained in our use of force when ever possible and treat people with courtesy, respect and dignity. 

 The good work that is done by our staff every minute of every day shows in this year’s Citizen survey that gives us a 93% rating of fair, good or excellent.  Cities that are experiencing police community relations problems we've been seeing on the national news can't touch those numbers because all of the work that is done in Duluth to strengthen and maintain our relationship with those we serve.   

 Please do not hesitate to call me if you would like to talk further about any of the current events.


Your Police Chief

Gordon Ramsay

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Vile of Life

Thanks Jery Lawson and Officer Russ Bradley for your work on this great project.

From the Duluth News-Tribune.

Vial of Life program aims to provide quick medical history

The Duluth police and fire departments introduced a program Monday that they say will save lives.

Speaking at the Duluth-St. Louis County Public Safety Building, officials announced the city’s adoption of the Vial of Life program, in which residents can affix a plastic baggie with pertinent medical history and personal details to their refrigerator and a corresponding sticker to their front doors.
“It allows us to give quick care to people in need who are living in their own homes,” said Russ Bradley, the police department’s east community officer. “It alerts first responders that there is medical information available.”

There are 2,500 kits available free at police and fire stations across the city. Bradley said he expected senior citizens, mostly, to use the program, but Vial of Life could benefit anyone.

“When we’re in an emergency situation, time is of the essence,” Duluth Fire Capt. Corey Swartout said. “This is a proven program.”

The local authorities thanked a citizen patroller, Jerry Lawson, for his effort in bringing the program to the Northland. Lawson, who is retired and spends winters in Florida, sought counsel with authorities there after observing the program firsthand.

“It’s going to save lives,” said Lawson, who learned of the program while attending a ride-along with sheriff’s deputies in Daytona Beach, Fla. “Not just older people, but everyone.”

Lawson gave the real-life example of a man who’d had a stroke and couldn’t answer any of the first responders’ questions because the afflicted man couldn’t speak.

In addition to pertinent health information, Vial of Life users can inform first responders of important contact information as well.

Bradley said police can spend exorbitant amounts of time trying to track down family and others.
“Sometimes they can be very difficult to find,” he said.

With quick access to vital health and contact information, first responders figure to be better equipped to help those they serve.

“I think there’s a need for this,” Bradley said.

Essentia Health purchased the stickers for the 2,500 kits and Super One provided the plastic baggies (which years ago replaced the program’s original vials for cost reasons).

What happens if the 2,500 kits get scooped up?

“We’ll make another 2,500,” Lawson said, “and give them out till everybody’s got them.”

Vial of Life kits
To get a free Vial of Life kit, visit:
  • Duluth Police Headquarters, 2030 N. Arlington Ave.
  • West Area Police Station, 5830 Grand Ave.
  • Lincoln Park substation, 2012 W. Superior St.
  • Duluth’s main fire hall, 602 W. Second St.
  • Fire Station 2, 2627 W. Superior St.
  • Fire Station 4, 425 W. College St.
  • Fire Station 6, 1031 N. 51st Ave. E.
  • Fire Station 11, 3501 Woodland Ave.