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Our View: Public safety, better policing can start with us

From the editorial: "A few minutes of feedback from all of us can be valuable if the input is examined closely and taken to heart by (Duluth Police Chief Mike) Tusken, his officers, and others in the department."

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Osama Hajjaj / Cagle Cartoons
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Quality law enforcement has long been a priority in Duluth, even before George Floyd was murdered by an officer in Minneapolis, before the cries to defund the police, and before the recent spikes in violence, especially in America’s largest cities.

Against that backdrop, this week, Chief Mike Tusken and the Duluth Police Department asked community members for our thoughts on how the department is performing and where improvements can be made. They also invited us to take an inside look into their operations. Also this week, Congressman Pete Stauber of Hermantown participated in a roundtable discussion in D.C. on the importance of law and order.

Effective and, at the same time, responsible policing is as timely and urgent a topic right now as the federal trial that started this week in Minneapolis against three former officers accused of violating George Floyd’s civil rights, leading to his death.

Participation and feedback from all of us are just as urgent and promise to play a prominent role in improving our policing while also ensuring our safety.

“We are committed to continuous improvement,” Tusken vowed in a statement Wednesday to the media. “Community is our strength.”

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To that end, the department invited the community to fill out an online survey of nine multiple-choice questions, plus space at the end to leave comments and “suggestions for improvements.” The community survey, at duluthmn.gov/police , asks us to rate the competency, professionalism, attitude, and behavior of police employees, as well as the department’s overall performance. We’re also asked how safe and secure we feel in Duluth.

Nothing too difficult, but a few minutes of feedback from all of us can be valuable if the input is examined closely and taken to heart by Tusken, his officers, and others in the department. Tusken acknowledged the survey is a requirement for national accreditation, an indicator Duluth Police are following best practices. But there’s no reason to suspect that’s all the survey results will mean to them.

In addition, the Duluth Police Department this week offered Duluthians an invaluable inside look into its tactics, operations, divisions, and more via its annual Citizen Police Academy. Applications are being accepted now; see the department’s website for information. Demystifying police work can go a long way toward uniting law enforcement with community members, allowing public safety to become a partnership, as Tusken often touts.

“The (academy) helps build relationships (and) allows citizens a better opportunity to understand certain operations," the chief said. "There will be multiple opportunities for questions to gain a better understanding of Duluth Police practices and procedures and the reasons for them. Our goal is to unite our citizens and police officers as we work together to create a safe Duluth for all.”

In D.C. Wednesday, meanwhile, Congressman Stauber was one of six House members who met with sheriffs from South Dakota and Georgia, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, and a policing and public safety researcher from New York City. As laudable as their aim was to “get tough on crime again by returning to a vigorous strategy to break the crime wave, secure the border, and restore public safety,” the gathering was hampered by its partisanship. All congressional participants were Republican. True solutions struggle to emerge when everyone at the table is thinking the same way and holds similar beliefs.

The topic, nonetheless — law enforcement and public safety — is as critical as it is timely, with more of us needed to engage and get involved. Whether that’s as simple as completing an online survey or something more time-consuming, better policing can start with us.

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Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken

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