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Summer run turns into a sprint

Officer Nick Lepak with kids at National Night Out. (Photo submitted)

In my last column (July 24) I focused on shootings of African-Americans and police officers and the need to come together to build trust between the communities of color and police. People of color expressed fear of police while police were hunkering down in expectation of unprovoked attacks.

In response, there was a Black Lives Matter candlelight vigil at City Hall. It was well-attended and had more than a dozen speakers calling for an end to violence of all kinds, with an emphatic call to action for equity and justice for all. It was a cathartic event, giving many an opportunity to share the pain, frustration and barriers to equity in our community. I was left with the realization we all have more work to do here in Duluth, but encouraged by the number of people who are willing to roll up their sleeves.

The following week there was a Black Lives Matter justice table where community members and police met. We talked about opportunities to build trust and relationships. I discussed my desire to have my staff engage in cultural competence or implicit bias training. The group embraced the concept and we are looking at logistics to do so. The idea of having a community picnic was crafted and preliminarily plans for September are in the works.

The police department bolstered police patrol staffing through Labor Day by having all sworn staff, not assigned to the patrol division, work patrol shifts. All investigators and command staff members, me included, are returning to patrol to support our fellow patrol officers with handling the heavy call loads of summer and augmenting patrol staffing. This way we demonstrate cohesiveness in support of patrol officers during these uncertain times. The experience has been overwhelmingly positive with staff.

This initiative has reconnected some of our staff with their beginnings at DPD. Old partners came back together while young cops worked with older cops to compare and contrast the tactics from days gone by with the cutting edge of today. In the end, camaraderie and respect transcended rank and assignment, bringing us closer together as an organization.

A substantial storm tore through Duluth, leaving considerable damage to public and personal property. Public Works, Minnesota Power and power linesman from other jurisdictions gave a Herculean effort to clear roads and restore power. Many of our residents struggled without power for days during one of the hottest weeks of summer. Chainsaws hummed all day long but amid all the carnage, I was encouraged by how neighbors came together to support each other. Hats off to each of you who worked to help your neighbors and for the workforce who worked long hours away from families to restore normalcy to Duluthians.

National Night Out came on one of the nicest days of the summer. Sixty-three block parties registered with the City to celebrate a night where we gather to get to know our neighbors and stand against crime by championing safe communities. This year we had more than 50 officers participate in NNO parties and for the first time, we made it to every party. The most valuable players of this night belong to those who graciously and generously give their time, money and/or homes for neighbors to gather and enjoy food and fellowship. Our staff enjoyed your hospitality and appreciate the overwhelming kind support.

This weekend Tall Ships will pass under the Aerial Lift Bridge with the promise of a 61-foot-tall yellow rubber ducky ... huh! As I write, a substantial police presence by multiple agencies and hundreds of hours of security planning is nearing completion to ensure a safe and fun weekend for Duluthians and visitors nationally and internationally. We anticipate several hundred thousand visitors to see one big duck and a brigade of Tall Ships. Weather forecast is excellent, so it should be a great time.

Thank you, Duluth, for your support of DPD. We truly could not do it without you!

Mike Tusken

Contact Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken at 730-5020.