Police should not deny public’s right to know

Letter to the editorMr. Hallman’s interview with Hennepin County Attorney Freeman [“County attorney defends withholding Clark videos until trial,” Dec. 17] raises several questions.

First, Freeman states that the “‘legal standard is quite high’ when it regards a police-involved shooting ‘before a police officer can be charged with a crime’” but, on the other hand, “the legal standard by which the evidence (in charging police officers) is exactly the same (as for civilians).

What does he mean? That it’s harder to convict police officers for the same thing that civilians do? A person is just as dead whether killed by civilians or police.

Second, I fail to see why it takes up to three months to interview everyone for possible crimes. Memories are freshest in the first week. All the additional time does is give police a greater opportunity to coerce witnesses into saying what the authorities want them to say.

Third, the need to give the accused officers a fair trial does not trump the public’s right to know whether the police have acted professionally and the police leadership is telling the truth about unfortunate incidents such as Jamar Clark’s killing.

We punish people partly to deter future events of a similar kind. But proper leadership by the police chief and her top leadership can accomplish the same thing. If the public cannot assess this leadership because the facts are unavailable for a long time, it subverts the democratic process, which requires civilian control of the police.

We cannot bring Jamar Clark back to life. To give him a legacy, I would propose that policies and practices of the police department be changed to make it less likely that persons such as him will be shot to death by police.

If the two officers acted strictly in self-defense, then the killing might be justified. If not, then the guilt extends beyond the two officers to the top leadership of the police department and the city administration.

Police Chief Harteau has been busy spinning the story of a struggle for the officer’s gun. If this story is false, she does not deserve reappointment.

The bottom line is that the public has a right to know whether the police at all levels have acted properly. Whichever elected officers deny that right do not deserve to be reelected.


William McGaughey