Police chiefs share thoughts on recent events
Law enforcement has been at the forefront of news and conversations over the past few weeks, due to tragic shootings that took place in Falcon Heights; Dallas, Texas; and Baton Rouge, La.
The Staples World spoke with the police chiefs from Motley and Staples recently to find out how their departments have been affected by these nation-wide events.
Motley Police Chief Ron Smith said that the community has been very supportive of both him and Jason Borash, the city’s part-time police officer.
“It’s been interesting,” Chief Smith said. “I’ve been out for lunch, in uniform, and people I don’t even know will come up to me and thank me for my service.”
Smith went on to say that he usually watches the news every morning; but he hadn’t watched it the day the story broke about Philando Castile being shot by a police officer in Falcon Heights.
By the time Smith learned about it while listening to the radio in his car, Governor Mark Dayton had spoken to the media about the tragic event and inferred that it was motivated by race.
“My heart sank,” Chief Smith said. “I wanted to ask him how he could come to this conclusion before an investigation was completed. I felt he was painting all of us (law enforcement) out to be racists.”
Melissa Birkholtz, Staples Police Chief, said that “It’s not an easy time to be in this line of work. We’ve become ‘Public Enemy Number One.’”
Birkholtz recalled that the Staples Police Department had just taken off their mourning bands from the Dallas incident, when they learned about the tragic shooting in Baton Rouge. “It’s so sad,” she said.
There is less and less respect shown to authority in general across the nation, Birkholtz commented. “However, in this community, people have been so supportive.” She went on to note a large sign that was put up at a residence on 8th St. NE in Staples in support of police officers. “That meant a lot to the guys,” she said. “Things like that go a long ways.”
Law enforcement in general is a family, Birkholtz said. “You rely on your co-workers with your life. We appreciate each other a lot.”
They’ve embarked on extra trainings over the past few years, Birkholtz said. “We try to be prepared as possible.” She went on to note that the officers are encouraged to be more vigilant and aware of their surroundings; and to be safe.
“We’re a positive group,” she said. “We don’t want to shoot anyone.”
Birkholtz noted that, “We’re all human. I’d say the vast majority of officers are good. Yes, there are bad ones out there; but it’s unfortunate that they’re the ones that seem to get the most media coverage. There’s a lot of good work being done, too.”