Forums on Alleged Police Brutality Aim to Bring Police, Community Closer

Created: 02/10/2014 10:18 PM

Two incidents, both caught on camera, have the Twin Ports talking about how the community and the police interact.

The first shows Duluth Officer Richard Jouppi hitting Anthony Jackson, a Native American man, at the Duluth detox facility in September of 2012. In the second video recorded in January, Superior Officer George Gothner is seen arresting Natasha Lancour, a black woman. She accuses him of using excessive force.

The Native Alliance of Duluth says there's a perception that excessive force is used more toward people of color. A new series of discussions aims to find out whether it's accurate and improve the relationship between police and community members.

Renee Van Nett, with the alliance, is heading up the meetings. She said they'll be held one time each month for a year. The first, held at the Central Hillside Community Center, brought in about two dozen people.

"It's time to address this stuff. People don't want to address it. It's tough. it's difficult," she told Eyewitness News.

Lt. Leigh Wright, with the Duluth Police Department, attended the meeting. She said "officers focus on behavior, not the color of an individual's skin."

Wright told us that she is the liason between the Native American community and the department. She says their relationship has been close.

Referring to the video of Officer Jouppi and Jackson, she said "we showed them what we had first before even releasing it to the media and the community."

More than a year has passed since then. Van Nett said police and the community are coming closer together already. "Relationships seem to be moving in a positive way I think," she said.

Officer Jouppi seen in the detox facility surveillance video was accused of assault but found not guilty by a jury last year. The State of Wisconsin is investigating the incident on dash cam video in Superior. Lancour is accused of resisting arrest.

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