Damnable deification

I was very disappointed in your article of Dec. 18 that virtually deified Michelle Gross [of Citizens United Against Police Brutality]. I have come to count on my neighborhood newspaper, the Southwest Journal, for more objectivity than the positional journalism of say, the City Pages.

There are many people who do not hold Ms. Gross in quite such ethical esteem -- myself for instance. She seems a zealot beyond all discernable reason to me. She never seems to hear an allegation she is unwilling to repeat as Gospel, with much righteous indignation. When some of her most passionate causes have evaporated under objective scrutiny, she seems nowhere to be found. That tactic is hit-and-run, lacking in integrity.

Please make no mistake; I countenance no police mistreatment of citizens. During the nine years I spent as deputy chief under chiefs Laux and Olson, I was called upon to review many allegations of misconduct. My role was to make a disciplinary recommendation to the chief. When warranted, I recommended cases be sustained, with discipline up to and including termination imposed, often delivering the finding to the officer myself. The difference was, it was based upon due process, the weight of evidence and the officer's history. Anything less is unjust, would be a waste of public resources and would never survive labor arbitration.

As an inner-city kid who has just completed 28 years of service in the Minneapolis Police Department, I would never deny the challenge police/community relations presents, notably in the minority communities I know best. As Studs Terkel succinctly put it, race is "the American obsession."

However, I have been in the police profession long enough to have also heard the police accused of not-so-benign neglect of predominately minority communities. That would also be a grave injustice; their property, persons and very lives are demonstrably more threatened by crime, than the actual incidence police misconduct. I fear that unchallenged scurrilous accusations could have a chilling effect on the willingness of officers to "do the right thing" and take action when they know they should -- a fear of self-initiative, of being second-guessed, in the neighborhoods that need it most. Conversely, the incessant "crying wolf" from the usual sources, makes it difficult for officers, supervisors and administrators to maintain their own objectivity, difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. That in no way serves the people.

Hopefully, one outcome of the recently concluded Department of Justice Community/Police mediation agreement will be greater community cooperation in the investigation of charges of misconduct.

I can speak for at least for the administration of chiefs Laux and Olson, when misconduct was reported, investigated and corroborated, action was taken without fail. That culture of integrity must continue to be nurtured within the MPD. The bonds of respect between the police and the community must also grow. I saw great growth in this area during my tour. I wish the new chief much success in that effort.

Greg Hestness

deputy police chief (ret.),

Minneapolis Police Dept.

East Harriet resident

(letter edited for length)