Two incidents, 48 hours apart and in neighboring states, portray the bad and the good of police work.
Monday in Minneapolis, George Floyd was confronted by police after he allegedly attempted to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. After Floyd was handcuffed and placed on the ground, Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes, even as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
Floyd’s lifeless body was later lifted from the street. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey says he considers it an act of murder and said it was racially motivated. Floyd is black; Chauvin is white.
Two days later, Wednesday, in Grand Forks, Police Officer Cody Holte rushed to an apartment building to help sheriff’s deputies who called for assistance when a routine service call turned violent. Holte and Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Ron Nord both were shot in the ensuing gunfire. Holte died as a result.
In Minneapolis, we see a senseless abuse of police power that has racial undertones. And in Grand Forks, we see sacrifice, bravery and true heroism by men in the line of duty. One incident rightfully elicits scrutiny, and one inspires respect for officers in Greater Grand Forks and beyond for the work they do every day.
The Grand Forks case shows how any call can turn dangerous for officers. It started with a basic visit to serve eviction papers on Salamah Pendleton, who lived in an apartment on the city’s south side. Police accounts say Pendleton incited gunfire that led to two deaths – Holte and civilian Lola Moore, who was inside the apartment at the time – and two other injuries, including to Nord, who was listed in stable condition Wednesday evening. Pendleton, too, was wounded and transported to Altru Hospital.
It is a grim reminder that any duty can turn deadly for these public servants and an example of the dangers of police work, even here in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota.
It is such a senseless tragedy. And now a young father has lost his life.
At a press conference Wednesday evening, Police Chief Mark Nelson said to attendees: “Remember, it is not how this officer died. It is how this officer lived that made him a hero.”
Often, the news media, social media users and others too freely use the word “hero.” Doing so diminishes the impact of the word when it’s truly needed – like today, as we honor Holte, Nord and others involved, including Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Kelly McLean and Police Cpl. Patrick Torok.
Heroes protect us, making our community safe. Heroes put their life on the line and know that when they do it, they may someday make the ultimate sacrifice. Heroes are noble and just. They protect. They serve.
That wasn’t the case Monday in Minneapolis, but by all appearances, it certainly was the case Wednesday in Grand Forks.
The best we can do now is pray for these officers and their families, honor their sacrifice and know that brave men and women are out there willing to put their lives on the line for the sake of public safety.