Dear Minot Police Chief John Klug:
I meant to write this several months ago, but a late hand clap is better than none at all.
I want to thank you for your leadership at the Minot Police Department since you became chief more than a year ago. Particularly your comments on two very important public health and safety issues last year — wearing face masks during the Coronavirus surge and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A recent issue of “The New Yorker” recalled your comments when the Minot City Council was considering a city-wide mask mandate in August.
Though you knew the issue was controversial and that anything you said might rile up one side or the other — “I know there’s a lot of people that are on both sides of this issue,” the magazine quoted you — you offered that a mask mandate would be preferable and would send the right message to city residents. You exhibited courage in speaking to the public.
You were rightly concerned about recent positive COVID tests among your officers and other staff, and you had required in-house masking and distancing. “It became more normal, and more compliance was there,” The New Yorker quoted you. You showed a genuine regard for those working under you.
And you displayed a wise and temperate approach to enforcing the state and local mandates.
“The number one way we’re going to try to resolve any complaints we respond to is just try to inform them of what the order is, make sure they understand it, ask them to comply with that order and, hopefully, they will do that,” you said in an interview. “If they don’t, right now we have directed our staff to issue written warnings, and we also have gotten some direction from the district court and the State’s Attorney’s office . . .”
“I think we do have to enforce it. It is an order from a governor, and there is a state law that directs us to enforce that law. So we will do it, but we will do it with discretion, and we want to make sure that we do it fairly across the board,” you said.”
Back in May, you displayed the same wise and temperate attitude when responding to the George Floyd death and the protests to come.
“I would like to ensure those who are gathering in Oak Park that we will not interfere with the peaceful assembly or freedom of speech,” you wrote. “I, like many others across the country, am upset with the actions and in-actions of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death. Our badges have once again been tarnished by a few bad apples and I share the frustration that this badge should be worn proudly as a symbol of peace and security . . . not power and control.”
“I would like to ensure that our department stands united as one community during today’s event. Please keep this event safe for all to gather and share their message.”
You provided needed calm when you beat down the false rumors that busloads of paid protesters were heading toward Minot. A crowd did gather peacefully in Oak Park, and police did not interfere.
You also spoke of the importance of officer training and attitude:
“When they’re getting a little bit too pulled in to an incident, getting a little bit too emotional, another officer has to step in and they have to say, ‘You know what? Step back, I’ll take care of this.’ And that didn’t happen in the (Floyd) incident that sparked this whole thing. We have to be accountable for ourselves, we have to be accountable for each other and we need the community to trust us,” you said in an interview following the local protest.
“Our community should know that we won’t stand for anything that is racially motivated in our community. So if our officers act out, based on that, they’re going to be held accountable,” you said.
I applaud your comments and leadership on these two vital public issues. I believe our police department is in very capable hands. I am proud to have once worked there.