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Posted on June 15, 2020 at 8:27 AM by Bryan Obenchain
While talk of defunding, disbanding, or reorganizing police departments continues in some parts of the country, that discussion isn’t appropriate or necessary in Minot. Let me outline why.
No one is claiming the members of the Minot Police Department are perfect; we know that’s impossible. But the members of our department consistently do their jobs with professionalism, respect, empathy, and accountability. The Minot PD readily seeks opportunities to partner with members of the community, local businesses, and educational institutions to improve the police/public relationship while working to maintain a safe community.
Historically, our Police Department has built a strong relationship with the members of our community. Past leadership and current Chief John Klug have created and cultivated a department that exists to serve and protect the residents of our city. Collectively, our Police Department is visible in the community through events like the Citizens Academy, National Night Out, Battle of the Badges, the annual Stuff a Squad toy drive, and many others. Working in conjunction with Minot Public Schools, we now have school resource officers at the high school and middle school levels, increasing our presence and visibility. Helping to educate the public about law enforcement philosophies and procedures is an ongoing endeavor.
Individually, our officers strive to maintain and improve the existing public/police relationship during their daily interactions with members of the community as they patrol the streets of Minot. Our officers are very aware that they work in the often blinding spotlight of public service and scrutiny. They accept that responsibility, which demands they conduct themselves with often unrealistic expectations of perfection. I’m reminded of this comment by recently retired Police Chief Jason Olson when discussing public expectations of law enforcement for a story in our 2019 annual report:
“People want to be treated respectfully. They want to make sure the officer isn’t abusing their power in any way. They want to make sure they aren’t using too much force. They want officers to be well-trained. They want them to respond appropriately at all times,” Olson said. “And then I think, some of these officers are still kids. They’re not perfect, but it’s amazing how often they are perfect. They do the right thing almost all the time, which is amazing at that age.”
While they strive to conduct themselves with perfection, law enforcement officers around the country face a wide variety of challenges every day, and the members of the Minot Police Department are no different. Granted, the challenges are often on a smaller scale for the 83 sworn officers in our department than they are in cities like Minneapolis or Chicago, but the challenges in Minot remain real and dangerous. We only have to look at the recent shooting death of Grand Forks Officer Cody Holte during an incident that began with serving an eviction notice to be reminded of the dangers our officers encounter daily.
As of the morning of June 10, Minot officers had responded to 16,202 calls for service in 2020; in 2019, the Minot Police Department responded to 41,088 calls for service. Those calls can range from a traffic accident, a burglary, a domestic violence incident, or a death. But even the most routine call can turn dangerous, as evidenced by the Grand Forks incident.
As elected officials for the City of Minot and as members of this community, I and the other members of the City Council support the the Minot Police Department. The overwhelming majority of our officers conduct themselves in a professional manner while performing the difficult and often under-appreciated task of keeping our community and its residents safe. Having said that, I also want to make this clear: We support our police officers unless they demonstrate that they do not deserve our support. We do not condone improper behavior and we have no tolerance for any unnecessary use of force by members of our police department. Police officers, like every other City of Minot employee, must be accountable and responsible for their behavior, actions, and decisions on the job.
Police departments are a necessary and integral part of municipal government; without them, chaos would reign. In Minot, we recognize the dedication and sacrifices of those who choose law enforcement as a career. It truly is a way of life rather than a job. The line can often be difficult to navigate: While we support our officers as they carry out their difficult duties and routinely put their lives on the line, we also expect the highest standards of conduct from them, and we must be willing to hold individuals accountable if mistakes are made.
Anything less is unacceptable.
Sincerely, City Hall.
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