Conversations around race and racial justice

Duluth NAACP calls for end to 'racially disproportionate policing' 

Duluth NAACP President Classie Dudley
Duluth NAACP President Classie Dudley holds up data showing what the group alleges is evidence of racially disproportionate policing in the city, during a news conference on Friday.
Dan Kraker | MPR News

The Duluth chapter of the NAACP has issued a series of demands to the city’s police force, accusing the department of racially discriminatory policing that has led to disproportionate arrests and use of force incidents involving people of color. 

Citing data obtained from the police department, Duluth NAACP president Classie Dudley said Friday that people of color make up only about 10 percent of Duluth’s population, yet were the subject of nearly 30 percent of arrests in the past three years, and also are involved in a disproportionately high number of encounters with police that result in the use of force.

“This data is nothing new to what we've been facing, not only in this community but the entire USA,” Dudley said during an afternoon news conference on the steps of the St. Louis County Courthouse.

“What do I have to do to get this attention to our forefront? Does there need to be a knee in the back of my neck for us to do some work about this?” she said, in reference to the killing of George Floyd last year by Minneapolis police. 

Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken acknowledged “there’s work to do in this area in our community,” but he said the data doesn’t tell the whole story. He said it’s important to analyze each incident on its own to get a clear understanding of what happened in each case. 

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said she agreed “there are disparities that are not right,” and that “there is change that needs to happen.” She said she’s committed to making change to make the community a better and safer place. 

Larson cited the city’s recent decision to create a third deputy chief position within the department as a step forward in that process. 

The NAACP has asked the city to regularly report data that breaks down traffic stops and police dog bites by race. The group also asked for twice-a-year progress reports detailing the steps the police department is taking to reduce racial disparities in policing. 

Ultimately, by the end of 2022, the organization is calling for use of force and arrest rates to be proportionate with the racial makeup of the community. 

Dudley, with the Duluth NAACP, said Friday’s event will be the first of many news conferences the group plans to hold as part of its effort to eliminate systemic racism in Duluth and the surrounding area.

“We want answers and we want action,” she said. 

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