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Monday, July 6, 2015

News Tribune Editorial

It seems the intense media coverage of a few national police incidents is negatively skewing perceptions of our police.  Here is an editorial Mike Tusken and I wrote that was published in the July 5 DNT.


Police View

 

Police officers today are working in one of the toughest times in our profession’s history. We are facing more scrutiny than in decades past despite the fact officers at the Duluth Police Department and many others are better trained, more educated, and working harder to create positive relationships than ever before. There’s been a clear disconnect created by the narrative driven by national and social media that has created a negative climate for our police officers. This narrative has overshadowed the countless times every day when our officers are helping people and solving crimes.

Police officers are standard-issue human beings but are expected to act beyond human and handle every situation with perfection as defined by many. Police officers take an oath to protect and serve: They will search for your lost children, protect you when a relationship isn’t safe or come to your house when there is a bump in the night. They also will break up a fight, chase down a robber, or search a business knowing the bad guy is hiding. We get asked, “How do you do it? Aren’t you scared?” Police are not immune from fears but will always come to your aid despite them.  

When asked by the News Tribune Opinion page if we were interested in writing a commentary on this topic, we had just been briefed and were following a priority call in eastern Duluth where a despondent male had overdosed on medication and was threatening to shoot at police officers. Thanks to the great work by our officers, that incident was resolved in a couple of hours without anyone being hurt, and the suicidal male was taken to the hospital without any injuries. Situations like this happen here daily.

Unfortunately, the narrative we are hearing and seeing on the national news is far from this. In some cases all police officers are being painted with a broad brush as the out-of-control racists of our cities. National stories have skewed public perceptions of police, and it is being felt by our officers. We’re not offering an excuse, nor are we defending the national incidents. Instead, we just want to bring balance and reality back into the discussion. There is no other profession that can be brought down as quickly as police can by the actions of a relative few.

There are almost 900,000 police officers working in our country, and, according to the FBI, there are an average of 58,930 assaults on police and 149 police officer deaths per year. Additionally, police work can shorten your lifespan. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health found that the potential loss of life for police officers is 21 times greater than for the general population.

We in the Duluth department have a staff of dedicated officers who leave their homes and families every day fully aware of the inherent risks of policing with a primary focus of helping people and improving the community’s quality of life. These officers are good people with good character, motives, and intentions who sometimes deal with dynamic and instantly evolving violent encounters. These encounters happen in a split second but will be etched in their memories for a lifetime.

Error in judgment is inevitable despite the best training, policies, and supervision. The results of these errors can be incredibly tragic and can create great angst among the community. Unfortunately, many times, conversation shifts from human error to the allegedly willful intent to harm or oppress. The narrative often is shaped on sound bites that don’t tell the whole story.  

Given the current national climate surrounding law enforcement, police officers are feeling down, and they need your support. As we move forward, remember the good work that is done every minute of every day by our police officers, and don’t judge all by the actions of a relative few.

 

Gordon Ramsay is chief of the Duluth Police Department and Mike Tusken is a deputy chief. They wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.

4 comments:

  1. Dear protectors; I responded through the newspaper- I didn't say how well protected I felt but I did say I couldn't trust your department after being hospitalized with falsified police info as created by your woman officer; who'd misjudge me greatly and not serve justly; hospitalizing me helped you; not me as you couldn't commit me unjustly when social workers and the state ombudsman got involved. I was only represented by a mental health provider the wife of an officer who'd scream at me and try to commit me without saying she was the dr's only representative I'd see; no mental health help at St. Luke's was provided and soon I couldnt access my federal phone rights or advocate info or my clothing I had a right to wear. They wouldn't give me a list of my medication promptly and gave me less calcium so my legs cramped and I couldn't walk- I got out hugging the Superior police chief; glad to have lived... But not trusting the Duluth Police because of those actions; you need to earn my trust back and honestly G. your communications putting me last and citing me for communication calls was rudely inappropriate- we all are racists and while eloquently written I feel your article fails to own the racism that is systemic that police alone are feeling; every city and branch is racist and we all are; even you and I who really try to play well with all others- more training in mental illnesses is one solution but honestly G a well trained officer lied to try to protect me; she failed because my trust of you guys is damaged; I fear you as much as I fear FOR you- and I wonder G why you guys couldn't have been just rather than hurting me and making me lose my housing? I no longer just trust police....

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  2. I commended a guy today and I also want to apologize for bad timing- Gordon Ramsay lost a friend today and G .,I trust many officers but it isn't safe for me to do so either; so G., in your pain you'd have a great sense of humor and make my day too- just favoring what I'd say helps; I know you lack time to listen to everyone- state senators have now blocked me on Facebook too and mostly I'm sorry if I hurt you G., perhaps after the building experience tandem skydiving with ( Kevin Jacobsen) or someone is in your future---! Ha!
    I only know I got a taste of the violence and fearfulness and incident responsiveness your team deals with daily and I felt very protected and well served by officers sometimes too busy to answer- the fear of you is healthy and my k-9 guy ,who smiles when he and his dog are shown, makes me really feel protected- I trust him; officers are afraid to identify themselves to me and Gordon and listeners; I long to trust all police but I can't and shouldn't- a lesson from who'd be an officer hospitalizing me; we have a job, we aren't your friends- some are my friends; most just want to protect others and go home safe- I'd read and reply to Mike's and G.'s words at the newstribune opinion page; my instinct now is;" police scare me"- I challenge who I'd commend because he changes that- usually G and Mike change that I trust them...sounding off on the internet about police mistreatment, my cousins have issues- leave my posts without deleting them; then I know who on my Facebook is anti- police- I am not and I'm sorry you'd cry G.!

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  3. The latest responding officers have all been kind and professional ( even one I'd complain about that I never should have had again was professionally good!)-- just saying folks that you are human and make mistakes too-- I forgive you G. for " letting me" be hospitalized too, it's taken me a long time but most officers have been nothing but supportive and great human beings, especially Nick Stauber and Marc Johnson and Jared Warneke and the rest of most of the Endion patrolmen and awesome women ( most of whom never gave me their names either) ! Stauber and Johnson acting when I had medical issues were particularly great humans so I cooked them chicken Marsala- gave some too to Superior Chief Nick Alexander-- I only wish I could hear from your team G., in writing too, particularly about gangs as I know so little. I'm working on not only forgiving but cooking again and a few of you are on my list ( you too G., something that goes well with Gatorade:-)!)-- hoping too to give another married chief a hug sir, because with all your tweet attention you'd deserve one!- and I just plain like you anyway! Hoping for more good interactions with your team ( and maybe some day soon less of them too!) thanks anyway for being a good friend on Twitter and know I still support your quest for justice ( including for officers stereotyped lately as Shooters of others and killers only, rather than the protectors MOST are!) Miigwich Ogima!

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  4. Just to say ; Officer Ethan Roe checks in with me and he is RESPONSIVE, KIND, AND CARING; as both an officer and a human being- great guy G. .Very impressed by him and feeling well served and protected and taken care of-- just one awesome person!!!

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