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Protective Gear Meeting Invites Questions, Opens Conversations

Baihly Warfield
Updated: October 09, 2018 10:18 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - More than a hundred people turned out for the first of three public meetings regarding the Duluth Police Department's request to purchase about $84,000 of protective gear. 

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The Duluth Citizens Review Board is hosting the meetings. Tuesday's was at East High School. 

"We've been having this conversation in the community for quite some time," Duluth Human Rights Officer Carl Crawford said. "And we're now at a point where we can gather data to help city council and to help our community be heard."

People in attendance were invited to ask questions of city staff, city councilors and police representatives as well as fill out written comment sheets. The comment sheets had two questions:

  1. Should this gear be purchased, what concerns, if any, might you have? 
  2. Should this gear not be purchased, what concerns, if any, might you have? 

They were also invited to comment on and suggest changes on a draft policy that the DPD would use to determine which situations call for protective gear. 

"Right now, the public has teeth in the game. And it makes it better for them if they do help with the policy piece of this," Archie Davis, president of the Citizens Review Board, said. 

Claire Bransky told Police Chief Mike Tusken that she had been arrested in the Twin Cities during protests following Philando Castile's death.

"I think that you as a peace-loving, civil liberties-respecting person have the responsibility to make sure that this gear and these weapons don't get into the hands of other people who will not be as peace-loving and civil liberties-respecting," Bransky said to Tusken. 

"I do believe that this isn't just a win or loss," Tusken told Bransky. "I do think we can keep community safe and we can keep the cops safe, and I do think that we have a culture in our organization which is about building community, building relationships."

Tusken said he wants to keep the focus on commonalities and a shared love for the Duluth community. 

"Is it possible for us as a community to both keep community safe and the cops safe?" he asked. 

Mike Elderbrook agreed that the goal is to ensure no one gets hurt. However, he referenced a few studies, saying he worries that protective gear could escalate otherwise peaceful protests.

"If there's a crowd with a couple rowdy people but then there's this line of riot cops that show up, all of a sudden it becomes more of that mob mentality because now, there's a common enemy," Elderbrook said. 

Ryan Stauber, a St. Louis County dispatcher, said he remembers hearing over digital police scanners when a piece of concrete hit a Twin Cities police officer in the head in 2016. 

"That sort of stuff scares me because if it had not been for that officer's helmet, he would not be alive today," Stauber said. 

He said he has "full faith and trust" in Chief Tusken and other police leadership. 

There are two more meetings this week:

  • 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesday at Denfeld High School
  • 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at Old Central High School

The Citizens Review Board said it will have a special meeting to compile all of the comments and create a report. 

Right now, the purchase is tabled, but the Duluth City Council could vote on it as soon as Oct. 22. 

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Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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