The Letter that Almost Got Me Fired 50 Years Ago!

downloadThe following letter describes what I had hoped and worked for the the late 1960’s.

We had a small movement going among some police officers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Everyday, we were dealing with civil rights issues and anti-war protests.

A number of us knew there was a better way forward and we found it.

Are those voices out there today?

(After the following letter was published, I was called into the office of the chief of police and among other commanders present, told that I was in trouble for writing this without department permission and that I would be disciplined.

My professors at the University of Minnesota came to my defense and the charges never materialized.

My colleagues and I pressed on.)

Letter to the editor

Minneapolis Tribune

January 1, 1968

There has been much discussion of the presentation of police-Negro community relations on the Public Broadcasting Laboratory of KTCA_TV, channel 2, on Dec. 17.

The program was designed to explore police-Negro relationships in a number of major American cities. However, the program more clearly illustrated the sociological process called ‘polarization,’ in which two major opposing factions in society draw and split into two separate camps.

The danger lies in that there remains no choice of a neutral middle ground for a person to objectively explore the situation. Everyone is forced to make a choice, either ‘them’ or ‘us.’ This impending polarization of our society is a threatening sign and indicative of the many complex social problems we have. They can be considered warning signs to a democratic government.

Within this entanglement of social problems stand the nation’s police. However, the men who represent law enforcement that Sunday were, as a group, much to be desired and were not representative of today’s young, professional police officer. It is this police officer who will be making the important command decisions in the very near future.

Those of us who consider ourselves as professional law enforcement officers are very disturbed by the impending polarization of society. We recognize our role as representatives of government, but we also realize we have a duty to represent the Constitution of the United States. We recognize our fundamental duty is to serve mankind as set forth in our code of ethics.

We recognized and understand the Negro’s struggle through history, his emergence today, and his longtime distrust of the police. We suggest that police officers and Negroes might change their attitudes by first changing their behavior towards one another. We are all slaves of our ignorance and prejudices, but racism, prejudicial attitudes, or even stereotypes have no place in any American community.

Today’s police hope that the Negro community realizes that the police are professionalizing, particularly through college and technical training programs. We realize that education is the key to our advancement. We have not been the cause of poverty, housing segregation, educational problems, or occupational difficulties that has plagued the Negro. However, we professional police officers can pledge equal, fair law enforcement regardless of a man’s race, color, or creed. May this be a public pledge of good law enforcement to our community, Minneapolis.

David C. Couper

President, Local Chapter, Lambda Alpha Epsilon

(A National Fraternity of Law Enforcement Professionals)