The Northland Chapter of Grandmothers for Peace and Veterans for Peace Chapter 80 support police reforms and accountability.
This means police must stop shooting people.
There are too many examples of unjustified, excessive, and deadly uses of force by police. Incidents have recently occurred in the Twin Ports. They continue to occur in Minnesota and across the nation, despite public outrage, much publicity, and promises for reform.
All people have legal rights and a presumption of innocence. Making an arrest does not justify the excessive use of force. Police are not justified in shooting suspects who flee or resist arrest. It should not matter who the suspect is, what they allegedly have done, or if they have outstanding warrants or a police record. Police are not judge, jury, and executioner.
The only time the use of deadly force is justified is when the suspect is shooting at police or other people. Yet, time after time, police reach for the gun first, it seems. They too often shoot before they have time to adequately assess a situation. They shoot in incidents where it is entirely unjustified. They shoot to kill rather than to wound and subdue.
Incidents supporting these assertions happen almost daily. Here in Duluth, an officer shot six times through a closed apartment door, injuring an unarmed man inside. After law enforcement response to a possible domestic dispute in a densely populated area of West Duluth, a man was killed. In Superior, a woman was tear-gassed in her own home. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, a man was shot seven times in the back at point-blank range for resisting arrest. Three officers were on the scene, and the shooting occurred three minutes after they arrived. This seemed to us a clear case of shooting to kill rather than to wound and subdue.
More recently, an officer in the Twin Cities killed a man after a traffic stop and a botched attempt to arrest him on a gross misdemeanor warrant. The officer claimed the shooting was an accident.
In Ohio, a 16-year-old girl was killed by a police officer within seconds of arriving at the scene of a fight. The girl had a knife and appeared to be attacking another person. But no attempt was made to subdue or disarm the girl. The immediate response was to shoot her four times. We don't presume to second guess the officer's split-second decision. But it is telling that the officer approached the scene with gun in hand.
In the U.S., 1,127 people were killed by police in 2020, according to Mapping Police Violence, an online nonprofit scorecard and database. More than half of the deaths, 58%, occurred during traffic stops, responses to mental health crises, or situations where the person was not threatening to use a gun.
Police must stop racial profiling and disproportionately targeting people of color. Immigrants, the mentally ill, the poor, and the unhoused are too often treated harshly.
Fundamental reform must also include reversing the trend to militarize policing. Military weapons and combat equipment, tactics, and training have no place on the streets of our communities. Police should protect and serve, not dominate and terrorize.
The conviction of Derek Chauvin was an anomaly. Police are almost never prosecuted, much less convicted, for killing. This is not police reform. Real reform requires ending the excessive use of force and the tendency for police to shoot, which officers do too often and too quickly.
Reforming police practices is important to the safety, freedom, and civil liberties of all of us.
Dorothy Wolden of Lake Nebagamon is a core group representative of the Northland Chapter of Grandmothers for Peace. Philip Anderson of Maple is a member of Veterans for Peace, Chapter 80 in Duluth-Superior, who has had military, weapons, and use-of-force training.