Duluth Police Chief Talks 2021 Priorities For Department
DULUTH, Minn. — Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken sat down with FOX 21’s Dan Hanger to talk about his priorities for 2021 after a year of so many challenges.
The goal this year is to try to get face-to-face interactions with police back — when safe from COVID — while taking a big step to modernize the police department even further with today’s ever-changing community needs.
The death of George Floyd, the civil unrest that followed, combined with a socially destructive pandemic, and a record number of shootings in Duluth — 2020 was one of the most challenging years for Chief Tusken.
“One thing you need to do when you’re in crisis in community, in our country, is you have to have difficult conversations, and those conversations we really couldn’t have because of the pandemic,” Tusken.
But Tusken isn’t waiting any longer to get back to pre-COVID norms of his department’s longtime focus on community policing. He says the face-to-face interactions need to happen now more than ever — whether by Zoom or socially distanced outside.
“To have difficult conversations with communities who at times have inherent distrust in law enforcement because of historical traumas and because of our history in law enforcement has not always been a history appreciated by all,” Tusken said.
And to help with the healing process to reform or modernize his department to be the best it can be, Tusken is in the process of re-organizing his team to add a new deputy chief position to solely focus on policies and training, better recruitment efforts and community engagement.
“Our community says it’s a priority, we believe it’s a priority, and one of the ways we can show that is put executive leadership over that division … to track and to innovate to be the best police department we can be,” Tusken said.
And to become the best, Tusken is tasking the new deputy chief with leading the department through a two-to-three year process to become the first in the state to be CALEA-certified through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement — the gold standard in today’s world of policing.
“Our community has talked about police reform, they’ve talked about building a better police department — more accountability. This is another response to community that we can do to show that we have got not only best practices for our area, not only best practices for the state, but that we are one of the accredited police departments in the nation,” Tusken said.
And every bit can help Tusken and his 150-plus officers who do not want a repeat of last year’s record-setting 41 criminally motivated shooting incidents across the city — many involving victims and witnesses not cooperating with police.
“You cannot succeed to have safe communities if you don’t do community policing model, that force multiplier of eyes and ears. That is what makes our department so good is that we do have a tremendous amount of support, we do have people who will share information with us about concerns in their neighborhoods, and it allows us to focus — really hone in and focus on those problems. It is vitally important. It is the cornerstone of all we do,” Tusken said.