Open letter to Sartell officials

Mike KnaakLetter to the Editor, Print Sartell - St. StephenLeave a Comment

Gopi Ramanathan, Sartell
Currently studying government and mechanical engineering at Cornell

Dear Mayor Fitzhum and Chief Hughes,

On May 25, George Floyd died while being detained by the Minneapolis Police Department for suspected forgery. In the days since Mr. Floyd’s death, we have seen scenes of grieving, anger, protest and riot across the country as our national discussion about racial biases in law enforcement continues, among other issues. Such problems have not affected Sartell in the same way as other cities, largely as a result of proactive efforts by the Sartell Police Department and the City of Sartell. However, this should not be reason for us to ignore these issues.

The fact is our city is growing and changing in many ways. In 2018, 8.7 percent of Sartell residents were nonwhite, which – although small – is a substantial increase from 2010, when 3.6 percent of Sartell residents were nonwhite. Although there are many groups that make up Sartell’s ever-more-diverse community, it must be noted that the black community in particular has repeatedly been targeted by acts of excessive force around the country, with little action by departments to prevent them from happening.

Sartell is stronger and more vibrant as a result of our growth and diversification, and Sartell police have served and will continue to serve a central role to ensure a safe, strong and prosperous city for all its residents. As we move forward, it is certain the police department and the city will face challenges, for change is never easy. However, preparing for change ensures the pains of Mr. Floyd’s murder do not have to be faced by our community or police, and that our community continues to flourish.

Such preparation involves a discussion much larger than one email, but I request public statements from the police department and city government on the following matters in the hope of sparking larger discussion and concrete steps to ensure the heinous acts leading to Mr. Floyd’s death never occur in Sartell:

• What is Sartell Police Department and the city government’s position on the actions of Minneapolis police that led to the death of Mr. Floyd, and the actions taken by state and federal prosecutors in response?

• What happens if a Sartell officer stands accused of use of excessive force?

• What happens if a Sartell officer stands accused of racial discrimination?

• What steps have been and will be taken by police and city government to regulate the use of force and deter excessive force?

• What steps have been and will be taken by police and city government to ensure officers are conscious of racial disparities in law enforcement?

I am requesting a public statement since I stand in a unique position. I am a brown individual who grew up in Sartell – a community which raised me, gave me my values and enabled me to get to where I am today. My first job was with the Sartell Police Department to help run the Police Activities League – an active step taken by police to build trust between officers and the community, and has allowed me to build close relationships within the department. However, after seeing too many George Floyds, too many Michael Browns, too many Trayvon Martins, and too many others, I believe it would be irresponsible of me to not use my position to highlight the issues the nation has been forced to confront. I hope the police department and the city will join me to address them, so we never add another name to that list.

Author: Mike Knaak

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