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Police chiefs encourage bringing grievances to them

Amid recent turmoil regarding law enforcement in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and other communities, local officers would like to remind the public that they simply work to enforce the laws of the nation, and the public's cooperation makes that proc...

Amid recent turmoil regarding law enforcement in Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and other communities, local officers would like to remind the public that they simply work to enforce the laws of the nation, and the public's cooperation makes that process easier.

Breezy Point Police Chief Kevin Merschman said having a "pretty diversified force" and a lack of discourse in the area helps to alleviate any unrest, but the occasional problems can be solved in a safe manner.

"Every department in Minnesota has a complaint policy mandated by state statute, and of course you have civil suits," Merschman said. "Anyone who feels wronged in their arrest has plenty of avenues to address their grievance at a later date, but it cannot happen on the street, because that is not a safe environment for anyone."

Merschman "likes to think" his community has his department's back, but encourages anyone with a grievance against the department to pay the police a visit, as they can likely confirm an issue with proof.

"I think the community supports what we do in most aspects," Merschman said. "There is the occasional incident where rumors become a problem, and usually they are put to bed rather quickly. Just about everything we do is videotaped, and once people see the real truth, the problem goes away."

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In regard to the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson, Lake Shore Police Chief Steve Sundstrom said those individuals are criminals who are taking advantage of a situation by committing crimes.

"They are not protesters. They are criminals who destroyed property and put the general public and officers at risk of injury or death," Sundstrom said. "The criminals who participated in the rioting should be arrested and held accountable for their actions. I have no problem with people exercising their rights to peaceful protesting, but what happened in Baltimore and Ferguson and other areas in this country are inexcusable and criminal."

Sundstrom said he personally does not know any local officer who is racist or dishonors the badge by taking advantage of the public.

"This area is surrounded by excellent, highly trained officers who truly care about protecting and serving their communities and do their jobs with integrity, honor and respect," he said.

The citizens of Lake Shore are very supportive of their police department and the officers who work there, he added.

"Unfortunately, there are still those individuals who blame the police because they got caught for their bad decisions or the bad decisions of their kids," Sundstrom said. "Respect starts at home and we need parents to instill their kids with respect, values and morals. Officers also need to be respected in the community by doing their job with integrity and honesty."

Nisswa Police Chief Craig Taylor said the most important aspect to prevent issues like those in Baltimore and Ferguson is to have open and honest communications between the community and the police departments to ensure that there is trust and respect that is demonstrated between the police and the community that they serve.

"I also believe that there is a time and a place to express grievances regarding police departments or police tactics, but on the roadside or during an arrest is not the appropriate time," Taylor said. "Protesting is a valid method of having one's voice heard, but there is no justification for rioting and destroying property."

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Taylor said he, too, believes the community is generally supportive of local law enforcement agencies.

Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang said what is happening across the country is disappointing.

"It's sad when the citizens do not trust their police, and when their only response is to riot and loot," he said.

Klang said he has had positive comments of support from citizens, thanking him for the job police do.

"I really appreciate those remarks," he said.

"One thing that I think we do well here is that we interact with our citizenry. Our cops are involved in community events and we socialize with the same citizens we police," Klang said. "A person being arrested or cited for something - that shouldn't be their first interaction with the police."

Related Topics: POLICETAYLOR
Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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