Local honors and a current hot topic
Over the last eight years, members of our department have worked to recruit and build citizen volunteers. Demands on police services continue to climb and our many community volunteers help us with everything from answering phones to traffic cont...
Over the last eight years, members of our department have worked to recruit and build citizen volunteers. Demands on police services continue to climb and our many community volunteers help us with everything from answering phones to traffic control at special events.
While I often share stories about the good work our officers do in neighborhoods, I want to highlight two individuals who have had a tremendous impact on policing efforts. Last week, we recognized two of our most active citizen volunteers, Pam Kleinschmidt and Jerry Lawson.
Pam, to whom we fondly refer as the mayor of Lincoln Park, regularly staffs our Lincoln Park office and West Duluth Station, answering phones and assisting with walk-in traffic. She has been instrumental in helping us build relationships with residents and businesses in Lincoln Park. She organizes monthly meetings for citizens and makes sure their concerns are addressed.
Pam goes out of her way at her own expense, taking phone calls from concerned citizens at all hours of the day and night. She spends many hours each week keeping an eye on problem areas in her neighborhood and works with us to develop solutions.
Several years ago, we needed help managing seized cars used to commit crimes. Demands were pulling our staff in many different directions. We needed a mechanic, an accountant and a customer service representative. We were fortunate enough to find a multitalented individual, Jerry Lawson, who was able to fill all those needs. Jerry has been instrumental in the day operation of our vehicle impound lot and we truly could not manage it without him.
There isn't a job Jerry can't do. Additionally, he helped us establish the "Vial of Life" program, which provides medical information to first responders. He also helped expand and improve our citizen patrol program.
I was honored to present Jerry and Pam with Police Chief's Citizen Partnership Awards. I am grateful for all they do for our community and police department.
Police body cameras
The state Legislature is back in session and there are several issues I am watching closely. Issues with police body camera video will take center stage with people on all sides lining up to express their opinions.
An individual had been posting people's mug shots online and then requesting $200 from the person in order to remove it. Fortunately, last year the Legislature banned this practice. But now I am aware of others planning to do the same with police body camera videos.
The videos could be obtained by anyone for any reason. They are often of people experiencing some of the worst times in their lives. It may show their homes or other private areas, loved ones or family members. It might show them during a mental breakdown or acting terrible while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Should this really be accessible to anyone? Police reports and photographs are one thing, but video is very powerful.
Additionally, blanket requests of police video made by a citizen in Washington will shut down police body-camera programs. Departments do not have the personnel to watch all the requested video to ensure there is nothing on the videos that should be not be released.
While we learn the strengths and weaknesses of police body cameras, I am advocating that the videos should be released only to those involved in the incident, not third parties interested in creating news or making money off people's misfortunes. I agree with the American Civil Liberty Union's idea of allowing a judicial officer to determine whether a police body camera video should be available to the general public, in cases that have a public need.
No one is immune from the day-to-day struggles in life. In general it serves no public purpose to make police videos of people available to anyone other than those involved. And with upward of 8,000 videos a month in Duluth, there are plenty of these incidents that would ruin careers, families and people's lives.
Let's take some time to carefully think about this one and create good public policy related to this important issue.
Contact Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay at 730-5020 or firstname.lastname@example.org .