Dennis Flaherty, Executive Director of the Minnesota Peace & Police Officers Association, provides an honest and interesting take on the latest police happenings.
What is the mindset of a police officer as he makes a traffic stop? And does it depend on the race of the driver?
“It doesn’t matter the race of the driver,” says Flaherty, “but as you know traffic stops are very dangerous for police officers. Many officers are injured and many officers are killed [doing that] so it requires focus and attention at all times.”
There are statistics coming out of the St. Anthony Police Department saying that half the people being arrested are African Americans, but only 7% of the population is. Has this been a case of racial profiling?
“While I can’t speak for the city of St. Anthony, I think it’s more of a case of behavioral profiling over racial profiling. Cops watch your driving behavior, or whatever behavior you’re displaying, and they profile in that matter and use that information when they pull someone over. In Falcon Heights, I don’t think it was a case of racial profiling. The officer legitimately felt like the driver of this car had been in a robbery a few days earlier and that was one of the major reasons he stopped the car. And, that’s what we expect officers to do!”
Does training need to be changed?
“Look, training is changed all the time in police work. I’m all for additional training for police officers and it can come in any shape or form. Whether that’s bias-free training or deescalation training. Training does help individuals, it helps all of us no matter what job we do. We have always been for increased training and I’m looking forward to working with legislators in the coming months to look at what kind of training the communities feel like their officers need.”
There’s another statistic that states 94% of officers go through their entire career without discharging their gun. I’m curious about training, then. Most of your training is focused on shooting your gun instead of deescalation training. Why is that?
“I don’t know that it’s accurate to say that most of a police officer’s training has to do with discharging their gun, but it’s unfortunate that it’s the world we live in. We’re in a society that’s full of firearms so officers obviously have to be very proficient with their use because their lives can depend on it. The majority of officers do indeed go through their careers without using their weapon, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be prepared, able to understand when it should be used and how it should be used. It’s a part of police training and will always be part of police training.”
How about the Governors comments that if this man were white he would still be alive?
“Tremendously disappointing. Words can not describe, on behalf of the entire police community, how disappointed we are in Governor Mark Dayton. He knows better. He has been a public official long enough to know that words matter, especially in these highly charged situations. His remarks were not only wrong, but totally inappropriate and at a very, very bad time.
Governor Dayton has called me and I have yet to return that call. I certainly will, but I’m very upset with his remarks. They were not helpful, to say the least, and the average working cop out there feels like the Governor threw the entire law enforcement community under the bus. When he insisted that there was racism involved and further doubled-down to say if he had been white this wouldn’t have happened? He said that without any facts whatsoever.”