The Duluth Branch of the NAACP has been made aware of an invitation-only community forum planned and led by the FBI, Duluth Police Department, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, Superior Police Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, to be held on Friday, September 14, 2018. We have chosen to issue the following statement in regards to that forum and the upcoming proposal for the purchase of riot gear by the Duluth Police Department.

The Duluth Branch of the NAACP believes building public trust between the police and the community is key to enhancing public safety and reducing crime without inciting further violence. As an organization, we have worked to create open and accountable relationships with law enforcement to promote safety within our communities. Unfortunately, the “Use of Force in Minnesota” forum scheduled for Friday, September 14th lacks transparency and community involvement in the planning. We feel that any law enforcement policies, trainings, or meetings that directly impact our safety, particularly policies and practices regarding use of force, should have ample community input, which this meeting lacks.

People of color have been surveilled, profiled, controlled, threatened, and killed by police since the days of slavery. We continue to see people of color disproportionately targeted by the police, resulting in fear for personal safety and higher rates of incarceration. The historical and cultural impacts of policing on our communities have not been fully addressed or considered by policing agencies in Minnesota and Wisconsin, despite recent efforts to increase community outreach.

We request the forum scheduled for September 14th be postponed in order to create a more authentic and well-directed community dialogue about the use of force and its impacts on communities of color. We encourage the FBI, Duluth Police Department, Superior Police Department, and other agencies to reassess this proposed training and work with local partners to create a truly inclusive format for a conversation around community safety.  

Furthermore, we believe the Duluth Police Department’s request for riot gear will only erode public trust. We have seen the devastating impact an overly-militarized police force has on communities of color. When tools like riot gear are deployed, it creates the false notion that the public – especially people of color – are enemy combatants. When a department is provided new tools, they will use it. Because of these reasons, the Duluth NAACP urges members of the City Council to vote no on any requests for funding for additional riot gear.

We believe in a healthy community that works together, not one that works to divide and harm itself.  As an organization, the NAACP - Duluth Branch is committed to continuing authentic dialogue that leads to accountable relationships between community and law enforcement that benefit all involved.