A blog on issues related to policing and public safety in Duluth written by Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.
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Friday, December 12, 2014
Current Events in Policing
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.
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
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.