Our view: Review policies, and before public pressure

Herald pull quote, 6/24/2020

Police departments are reevaluating their processes and protocols as law-enforcement brutality and racism become issues across the nation.

Saturday, the Herald published a report outlining any potential policy changes – or even simple discussions related to policy changes – among city and university police agencies in Greater Grand Forks.

In East Grand Forks, Police Chief Mike Hedlund noted that his department, as of June 8, has formally updated its use-of-force policy. Specifically, the updated version mandates that if an officer is physically restraining somebody, then as soon as that person has been successfully restrained, the officer should ensure the person is sitting or standing in an upright, comfortable position. Second, a clause was added to the policy explicitly forbidding any restraining techniques that cover the nose or mouth or otherwise restrict breathing.

EGF officers already were trained for that protocol, Hedlund said, but he stressed that it’s good to clarify it in department policy.

This is a commendable move by Hedlund and city leaders in East Grand Forks, who apparently recognize the importance of reviewing and, potentially, updating policy to bring it more in line with changing attitudes about modern policing.


And it’s especially important as calls ring out nationwide to “defund police.” There are debates occurring about what, exactly, backers of that slogan believe, but it’s apparent the movement seeks sweeping changes in American police departments.

We do not back calls to “defund police,” since we believe departments must be adequately staffed and equipped to protect the public in any situation.

But national police reform – the kind that reduces excessive force, better understands racial bias and improves community conversations and relationships – is important.

Foremost, departments that are truly interested in reform and improvement in contemporary policing must show an interest in reviewing protocols and similarly must encourage the conversation.

In the UND Police Department, protocols recently were reviewed but UND Chief Eric Plummer said he felt no changes were necessary.

Notably, Plummer said he is open to conversations about any of the department’s policies.

“I'm very passionate about my job, and I know all of our officers are passionate not only about their jobs but also the community in which we serve," Plummer said. "So I would just say that if people do have comments or concerns with any law enforcement actions or operations within our jurisdiction, that they would feel that they can reach out and talk with us.”

And in the Grand Forks Police Department, the department's use-of-force directive explicitly bans the use of any choke holds unless deadly force is authorized.


Chief Mark Nelson declined a Herald request for an interview about the department’s policies. Spokesman Derik Zimmel did tell the Herald that no GFPD policy goes more than two years without being updated.

We encourage public entities and law-enforcement agencies throughout the region to spend time and review policies and, if necessary, to make changes. At minimum, it’s a good idea to spark conversations about policing within the community.

And it’s best to do it on their own, prior to any public pressure.

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