DULUTH, MN– More controversy over the purchase of protective equipment or riot gear for the Duluth police department Tuesday night.
A public hearing brought in dozens of people for and against the purchase, all hoping to have their voices heard when it comes to protecting the community.
Duluth Human Rights Officer, Carl Crawford says, “talk about opportunities and how the community feels not only about the historical trauma, but also some of the challenges raised throughout the city council meetings.”
Last December, the resolution to purchase the near $83,000 riot gear, including shielded helmets, body armor, and batons, was tabled at the request of the council in order to hear more community feedback, and then again last month.
I think it’s important too as a city that we just learn more about our community needs and hopes, and where we can do better,” says Crawford.
Several City Council meetings have been prolonged due to the widespread community conversation showing support and opposition toward the topic and Tuesday, members of The Duluth Citizen Review Board heard similar feedback.
Michelle Peterson who is in support of the riot gear says, “most of us cannot understand what it would be like to have to put on a bullet proof vest to go to work every day. And I think that we need to support our law enforcement community. This is defensive gear, it’s not offensive gear.”
While some feel the gear could be necessary for the future, others worry having it could militarize law enforcement.
“When we’re talking about a community that might see Line 3 and civil unrest because of Line 3 or other events. As a Native American, our land is always being challenged so there are going to continue to be events like Standing Rock where police might feel threatened,” says Mary Owen, who is opposed to the purchase of the gear.
But Duluth Chief of Police, Mike Tusken says, that idea is all about culture and mindset. He says, “it isn’t about the equipment, it’s not us versus them. It’s about building community, building relationships, building trust.”
During the meeting, the community had the chance to fill out a card with their concerns and ideas and also read through a sample policy that would be put in place for allocation of riot gear.
Crawford says Tuesday’s meeting provided great insight and feedback for the Review Board.
Another meeting will be held Wednesday at Denfeld High School and Thursday at Historic Old Central both starting at 5:30 p.m.
To take the Personal Protective Equipment Survey- Riot Gear click here.