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UMD to host community-police relations forum

University of Minnesota Duluth students, faculty and staff will be able to discuss community-police relations during a forum on Tuesday.

"I'm hoping ... that we get a better feel for who we all are and what our connection is to one another, and that our city will become known as a place where you can drive while Black or Native American or Mexican or Scandinavian, it doesn't matter because you will be treated fairly and honestly and without lethal force," said organizer Deborah Petersen-Perlman, an associate professor of communication.

The College of Liberal Arts is hosting Hands Up: Police and Community Relations in Duluth, scheduled for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday in room 90 at Bohannon Hall, located at 1207 Ordean Court at UMD. Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, Police Chief Mike Tusken, Jeremy Nevilles-Sorrell of Mending the Sacred Hoop and civil rights activist Kym Young are scheduled to attend and discuss their thoughts on police-community relations. Duluth Human Rights Officer Carl Crawford and UMD sociology associate professor Emily Gaarder are expected to facilitate the forum.

Petersen-Perlman said she was prompted to organize the event due to the number of police shootings of black men taking place in the United States. She said she's heard about the experiences of black UMD students as a professor and when was a member of UMD's now-defunct African-American Student Advisory Board.

"They would tell me stories about going to the mall and being followed just because they were black or being stopped while driving off-campus because they were driving while black. This is a number of years ago now, but it happens and it's an attitude," she said.

The forum will be a chance for the UMD community to meet Tusken, who began his tenure as Duluth's police chief in May. Petersen-Perlman said she also wanted to organize the forum after hearing about the police department's less-lethal launchers, which fire a 40-mm sponge round at a speed of 325 feet per second and are designed to incapacitate the target without penetrating the skin or causing serious injury.

"I thought this is a good opportunity for us to learn more about who (Tusken) is and learn about what his philosophies are," she said.