The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department and the Brainerd Police Department are here to ensure a safe and secure environment for all people.
Both law enforcement agencies said they treat all people the same regardless of color or ethnic background.
Sheriff Eric Klang said he worked with deputies for many years before he became sheriff last year and he believes they treat everyone the same. He said he has not heard of any racial complaints.
Klang said inmates in the jail also are treated equally. He said when Darrick Bellecourt was in jail for second-degree murder for the Oct. 13, 2002, shooting death of 15-year-old Zack Peterson, Bellecourt requested to smoke a peace pipe.
Klang said smoking a peace pipe was part of Bellecourt's American Indian culture, but Klang would not allow tobacco in the jail facility. The county implemented a smoke-free policy in the facilities in 1993 and no one can have tobacco on the premises.
Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc said the police department's code of ethics and policy is to treat all people based on their behavior, not color or ethnic background.
Bolduc said before officers are hired a psychological test is completed to make sure the person does not have any built-in biases. However, Bolduc said everyone is human and people do build biases through experiences.
Bolduc said a goal of the police department has been to recruit minorities to the department. He said the department has made every effort to recruit minorities, but it is tough.
"You don't see a lot of people of color in smaller departments," said Bolduc. "And we have to compete with the larger departments for minorities like in the Twin Cities. We also do not pay the same as the metro area and Brainerd is a more unfamiliar city to people of color from other areas.
"If Brainerd was the only one that had this problem (a lack of minorities applying for the job) I'd be concerned. But it's across the board."
The state licensing board for police officers is developing strategies to help recruit more minorities, said Bolduc. People with a four-year degree who want to change their career to law enforcement can be licensed through programs that use on-the-job training.
Racial issues have come up in the law enforcement field.
Bolduc said since 2001, the department has had two complaints based on racial profiling. Each complaint came from people of color who were arrested for DUI and felt they were arrested because of their race.
"An investigation was done on both cases and the complaints were unfounded," said Bolduc. "The key in both cases was there was probable cause to stop them. The police officer did not know in both cases who the person was inside the vehicle."
Bolduc said sometimes people involved in the incidents may believe they were racially discriminated against, but said they need to look at all the facts. Bolduc said there are perceptions and people have accused the police department of being racist.
Last year the police department was accused of being racist because of a confrontation in Lum Park involving 30-50 people on Memorial Day. Four people were arrested and several people were hurt.
"These people wanted the community to believe it was racially motivated and it wasn't," said Bolduc. "I wasn't happy about it, but when people are emotional they make things up that are not based on facts."
Bolduc said this incident and two others, involving the same three people, are the only incidents the department has had involving allegations of racial bias. He said these crimes were not based on racism and were based on drug disputes. White people also were involved in the crimes, said Bolduc.
The police department has received calls regarding loud parties, underage drinking and stealing involving college students. He said these calls are not based on racism either.
"College parties do get our attention, but we deal with the behaviors," said Bolduc. "Not race."
Bolduc plans to continue to address racism in the community proactively.
Klang said the only time he has heard racial remarks when on duty is when talking to someone about a crime. When he is talking to a victim or witness to complete a crime report, Klang said he often hears them refer to people of color with harsh, racial words. He said the comments come mainly from older men.
A racial profiling study was conducted of law enforcement agencies in the state by the Council on Crime and Justice and the Institute on Race and Poverty, which is associated with the University of Minnesota Law School. The study found that black, Hispanic and American Indian drivers were more likely to be stopped and searched by police in Minnesota last year than white drivers.
Brainerd and Crow Wing County did not participate in the study. When the study was initiated Bolduc was not Brainerd police chief and Klang was not sheriff. Klang said he would have liked to have done the study because one of the incentives for participation was departments would receive state money to buy video cameras for squad vehicles.
"It also would have showed us where we stand with the other departments," said Klang. "I am a little curious, but we have not been troubled with it (racial problems). I'm not convinced there is a problem."
Bolduc said he has mixed feelings about the study. He said the study was self-reporting and it might not be accurate.
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