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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


  1. Dear sir, I'd give you a rather lengthy email tonight and I'd detail too on here hoping to be reassigned to someone at night as well so I don't need to go through 911 non- emergency for drug issues here. I am a special case I know and mentally able to communicate and partner with your team, please sir, allow me to not choose between so many good people I have been given and partner with you and other agencies to solve our local drug issues as I see them! Please help me kind and gentle sir chief, love and respect for the team,
    Linda M.Mundell

  2. Good God chief you could've been killed before you could call for backup! Glad that you were and are alright! My supervisor as a human being gave me a racy nickname and the hearts of your team! Thanks sir and glad you'd survive without injury- my sympathies of late are with Marc, my officer, for having to take a life b4! The hardest thing you guys and gals ever do as usually you save people's lives- perhaps only finding suicides is worse! Thanks for you all, hearts, heads and humor! Good thing you'd win and keep your wits about you- I'd panic and probably not be too lethal a person...ask my officer about the funny nickname from Sheriff's today! Joker still has me smiling, racy but a safe old married team! I thank you!

  3. Also sir, may I compliment the latest Lt. I was previously assigned to for her professionalism in the face of extreme busyness too! I know how it gets and I'm sorry to have been so much a bother sir! I'd also see a greater worldview of the drug situation here and combat my over communicating by seeking to partner with nearby task forces and officers dealing with the narcotics issue to combat drug abuse and dealing! Your team has been overly patient with me even when threatening to cite me rude but polite is what younger officers and oppositional Lts were- drug issues here are statewide issues so I'd also have a highway patrol contact at this point! Love and respect you for how you risk your lives every day!

  4. Sir Merry Christmas to you and your and prayers for racial peace here- prayers too for retirees ESP. Superior Police chief Charles! Thanks G- for being there and for so eloquently standing for justice and equality for all, which I feel you'd do so well at! You and the women and my intimately protective team rock!

    1. LOVE ALWAYS- would give 100 year old neighbor your office number to thank you for her Christmas card too- special sir!

  5. Sir Gordon Ramsay, in light of the emotional impact of your recent call to the suicide and domestic with the abuse sexually of children, maybe girls your daughter's age even, let me say in print that my thoughts and prayers are with you and yours during these hard times and if you ever just need a friendly listening Ear, I will be a friend to you who will be there too! Hard job you all have! Thanks for helping people,especially children!