Dear Community Members of Coon Rapids:
Since the tragic event in Minneapolis surrounding the death of George Floyd while in police custody on Monday, May 25, 2021 I have been thinking about how that tragedy is affecting our entire country. What is my opinion about what happened? What do our citizens here in Coon Rapids want to hear about THEIR police department? These things have weighed heavily on my mind. I have also received some emails asking about our department, its training policies, our philosophies and could anything like the events leading to the death of George Floyd ever happen here? This message is to YOU – the citizens of Coon Rapids, with just some of my thoughts.
No person (police officers included) of sound mind defends the actions of any of the four former police officers. I was shocked to see former officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and shocked by his failure to immediately remove it when Mr. Floyd stated he could not breathe. Chauvin continued with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, meanwhile none of the other officers did anything to change the situation. All four officers have subsequently been criminally charged for their actions and inactions and will properly have to answer to a jury. This tragedy was heartbreaking, needless and unacceptable.
I have been a police officer in Coon Rapids for over 25 years and was specifically trained in 1994 to NEVER kneel on the neck of anyone. While I can’t speak to a time before that, no officer in Minnesota since then has been trained to kneel on someone’s neck as that maneuver can kill. In addition, no Coon Rapids officer would ever tolerate unethical, illegal behavior of a co-worker. It should not happen in any professionally run law enforcement organization. It’s a disgrace that this happened in Minneapolis. I imagine that every police officer in this country feels a tremendous amount of sadness, just as I do. Moving forward, this isn’t only about George Floyd, it’s about doing everything possible to ensure that tens of thousands of interactions between the public and our officers occur with a community mindset and a high level of professionalism each and every day. We continually work on this goal here in Coon Rapids and we appreciate our partnerships with you.
Our Mission and Commitment to You
Our department’s mission focuses on enhancing the quality of life for all who live and work in Coon Rapids. Officers work with the public to provide outstanding service and build bridges of trust – by showing compassion, an understanding heart and a listening ear. This trust is built every day, on every call we respond to, with every officer interaction. Sound ethics are the backbone of our department; engrained in the men and women who work here every day, who serve people who come from all walks of life, sometimes, during the worst moment of their life. Our job is to be caring and compassionate, while upholding the law. Simply put, we believe in treating others the same way we would want to be treated, with the dignity and respect each person deserves.
Hiring and Training
Here in Coon Rapids, we work hard to attract a diverse mix of well-qualified candidates from a variety of backgrounds. To become a Coon Rapids Police Officer, candidates must have a two-year degree, successfully complete the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) skills, endure rigorous interviewing processes and consent to an extensive background check into all aspects of a person’s life. Once a candidate is given a conditional job offer, they are evaluated by a licensed psychologist who uses a thorough examination process to ensure a candidate is mentally fit to be a police officer. Once hired, officers go through an intensive 12 week field training program where they are evaluated daily by specially trained officers. At any time during this process, decisions are made as to whether someone should remain or be let go from the department. The process is methodical, with a goal of having only the very best work for us.
Once hired, continual training occurs for all officers. They learn the latest in de-escalation techniques, officers use virtual simulators to help practice making decisions in tense environments, and all of our officers have received training in mental health and crisis situations as those calls for service represent a very specific challenge as the actions of those in crisis can be quite unpredictable. You should also know that I am never satisfied by what we are doing and that our culture here is to change and adapt to best practices as they evolve, from both our experiences and from the experiences of others. Even now the Coon Rapids Police Department is actively working to have a mental health/social worker embedded in the department who will respond to calls for service with us– a move that would provide another resource for the department and the public, someone with additional expertise in this field. We also have an officer assigned to follow-up on mental health crisis calls to facilitate and help citizens get the ongoing help they need. Communication is key to any situation; our officers are trained to both communicate and listen in every situation.
Advocates for Change
Our department is open to new ideas and tackling the tough conversations. I have long been a leader and advocate of changing the law enforcement discipline arbitration process. Currently, I am working with the Minnesota Legislature and the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association discussing how the process is fundamentally flawed and proposing changes I believe can effectively address the issues. I know that sometimes you’ll see former officers reinstated by an arbitrator under circumstances that defy logic. This must end. This problem is fixable and the fix can be achieved in a way that respects collective bargaining agreements.
I will continue to have other tough conversations and work toward solutions within the current system. I am part of the Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounter Working Group headed by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington. Over the past 12 months this group has worked hard to make recommendations for policing statewide. You should know that many of the recommendations made by this group have already been implemented here at CRPD, such as de-escalation and mental health training. You can read the entire report from the working group here. These are real outcomes, from experts in the field, as well as members of the public, who together spent a lot of time analyzing what can be better within policing. I value the time spent on these initiatives and will continue to extend my voice to create positive change.
Our department enjoys interacting with the public. From Night to Unite events and Squad Car Storytime to Community Police Academy or simple daily interactions, our officers continue to value the relationships built with the public. Our public’s goal is to maintain a safe community; the police department is committed to that goal as well. We believe building relationships, one day at a time, helps this goal become reality. It means people look out for each other; it means officers interact with citizens; and it means seeking out conversations that foster understanding among all people.
The Citizens Badge
Here in Coon Rapids, anyone that wears the badge is told by me prior to taking their Oath of Office, that they are wearing the “Citizens Badge” – a symbol representing the trust instilled by the public to each officer. It’s a trust that we don’t take lightly. We work for the public, we respect the public and we expect the public to demand the very best of our officers. If our services aren’t meeting public satisfaction, we have a complaint process that is taken very seriously – no matter where the complaint originates from, whether it be internal or from the public.
I hate that this act in Minneapolis was committed by those who share my profession as I know that many people will look at all police officers differently as a result. Sometimes I can sense people wondering whether I, too, am capable of killing an innocent person. That haunts me. I’ve worked very hard for my reputation and the reputation of this department, yet officers I never met have tarnished me and the many caring men and women that work for the Coon Rapids Police Department. There are amazing, kind-hearted, compassionate people who work here. I wish you could get to know all of them.
We are not perfect; no human being is. Our department is not perfect; but we try hard to learn from our mistakes. Police work can be unimaginably difficult, yet each day we will continue to work with integrity and honesty; with compassion and sensitivity; with professional judgement and character to keep our community safe. We see people – all people – as equal…unique individuals that make up the fabric of our community…a community that is a great place to be. We appreciate conversation, no matter what perspective you bring. We value and appreciate ALL citizens of Coon Rapids - YOUR police department cares about you. We value your ideas, daily interactions and times when we meet you, in all situations. We look forward to future conversations with you.
Chief Brad Wise