Update: 12:35 p.m. | Posted: 8:05 a.m.
More than 350 law enforcement leaders are gathering in St. Cloud this week to learn about how police can be more innovative while improving their tactics and relationships with the communities they serve.
It's part of the annual Minnesota Chiefs of Police Executive Training Institute.
The conference comes months after a Minneapolis police officer fatally shot Jamar Clark, an incident that sparked nearly three weeks of protests — including a freeway blockade, a vigil outside the 4th Precinct police station lasting more than two weeks, and multiple rallies at City Hall.
Clark's shooting sparked a fierce debate over police tactics.
In an interview with MPR News' Cathy Wurzer, Michael Koval, police chief in Madison, Wis., said his department uses what he calls the "Madison Model" when policing protest demonstrations.
When dealing with protesters, Koval said, his officers first come in at low profile with no riot gear. The goal is to de-escalate the situation, he said. During protest marches, officers "establish rapport" with protesters, he added.
"We have to really embrace the notion that we want to facilitate constitutional rights and individual liberties, and none are perhaps more precious than the first amendment," Koval said.
When protesters block off a major highway, Koval said, they reroute the traffic for about 10 minutes, which will gave protesters enough time to get their messages out.
"Those are the inconveniences in life that we can life with in order to sort of triage to the most important principles which are: Are we honoring and respecting those constitutional First Amendment rights?" he said.
If protesters destroy property or their actions put people in danger, "that is a story altogether different," he added.