July 16, 2020

The Chief of Police, Mike Tusken, posts a Facebook update stating the common talking points of his department.

He states, in part, that they are different than other police, that they don’t have the same problems other police do, and that they are overworked and underfunded. He speaks of the trauma endured by police officers as a copaganda tactic to solicit sympathy for individual officers. In part, Chief Tusken noted that police respond to Issues like addiction, homelessness, and mental illness. He stated “in the absence of systems and resources to effectively address these needs, police will continue to [respond to these calls] because if we don’t, who will?”

Impact: Chief Tusken is clearly shaken by the showing of support for changes to policing from the petitions and the speakers at City Council. But the question he asks belies the answer. We take funding from police and use it to support existing and future services that provide expertise in the areas of homelessness, mental health, and substance use disorder. His referral to the “personal struggle” of addiction as a criminalized act that needs addressing by police is in stark contrast to his comment about traumatized officers whose jobs can manifest in higher instances of chemical dependency. If Tusken’s assertion that the trauma of the job resulting in “physical and emotional harm” of officers is a reason to offer unconditional support and funding to police, why is a police response the appropriate approach to citizens who are experiencing the same things? By saying officers experience “chemical dependency” and citizens “suffer from addiction” Tuksen creates an intentional separation between those who are criminalized and those who fight crime.

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Duluth (In)Action is a platform to ultimately abolish the system of policing in Duluth and shift the culture of accountability. We are a group of Duluth citizens shedding light on the current practices of our city and DPD, hoping to ultimately change the way we think about policing and safety. We also hope this work can be used by activists and organizers as a political education tool for communities.
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