How to reduce use of force by police

Rep. Tony Cornish is getting plenty of attention and, judging by the comments on the Star Tribune website, applause for his letter to the editor in the paper today.

Cornish, a former cop, said it’s not complicated to avoid having force used against you by a police officer. Don’t be a “thug,” he said. Don’t sell drugs. Don’t stay out after 2 a.m.


“I just got sick of cops being used as a scapegoat when something goes wrong, and the cops are called to a situation they don’t really want to be in. And something goes wrong because they’re there, and right away, it’s the cop’s fault,” he told Fox9, while rejecting online criticism that his letter was racist.

“I’ve got relatives that are black,” he said. “I’ve gone to five different mission trips in the jungle. I spent big money helping women adopt black kids from Africa. I don’t fit the racist mold. So they should give that a rest.”

What other advice might help avoid violence?

Don’t have a mental health crisis and be scared when five cops and a police dog break down your door because you once gave them the wrong name. By the way, in his capacity as a committee chair, Rep. Cornish refused to allow a hearing on a bill that would mandate 4 hours of police training on dealing with the mentally ill.

Don’t drive with a broken tail light.

Don’t be afraid you’re going to be shot by out-of-control police.

Don’t be driving a car with a license plate that was a mistake on a warrant.


Don’t walk on Harriet Ave. S.

Don’t leave your car running while you run into the store to exchange Christmas presents. Don’t get upset when a cop says, “I don’t have to be nice to you.”

Don’t go swimming.

Related: Long Taught to Use Force, Police Warily Learn to De-escalate (NY Times)

  • Veronica

    You forgot being a young boy playing with a toy gun.

    • Don’t be 12.

      • L. Foonimin

        Prosecutors said “Tamir was big for his age — 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds,
        with a men’s XL jacket and size-36 pants — and could have easily passed
        for someone much older,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

        • Kassie

          Doesn’t change the fact that he was 12 and he was playing with a toy gun. All the officers had to do was talk to the boy and they would have learned that. Instead they shot him within 2 seconds of arriving on the scene and then didn’t offer any first aid to him.

          • JamieHX

            Do you know that the kid didn’t do anything like point the gun or make a sudden otherwise unexplained movement? Do you know if the police said anything to him? What do you know about the DETAILS? That’s what is missing from most of these stories. Everybody jumps to conclusions when they see these videos. There’s only one that looks pretty obvious to me — the incident in South Carolina — but even with that one we don’t know the details and we don’t know what the cop was thinking. Maybe he thought the guy running still had his taser. If the police think someone has a weapon and is likely to use it against someone, they can shoot the person as he runs away.

            I heard new details today about the case in Baltimore that make it pretty clear that those officers should NOT have been prosecuted. But everyone immediately jumped to conclusions about that before they knew any details. Even after they hear the details, a lot of people will stick to their original assumptions.

        • “Don’t be overweight”

  • Erik Petersen

    There’s some cloying presumptions of the police there, but thugs have been called ‘thugs’ going back to the predominance of Irish and Italian street gangs. Its not racist, it’s a colorblind word, or ought to be properly understood as colorblind.

    • Kassie
      • JamieHX

        Not to many, many people it isn’t. What you should say is “It is coded language to some and it is racist to some.”

        • Kassie

          It doesn’t matter if a white person doesn’t think it isn’t racist because it is racist. And coded language is when you use a word and everyone knows you really mean something else. When someone says thug, it is pretty universally code for an urban man of color, usually black, but you can pretend you didn’t mean it that way by saying “its a colorblind word.” No one calls frat boys thugs. Thug is become the new N-word. You can read about it in the link above.

          • JamieHX

            I SO disagree! It is way NOT universally used that way! It has become a code word to some people because THEY think it has more meaning, not the rest of the world. I heard that interview with McWhorter and remember being really angry about it. He’s talking about a segment of the world — mostly black people apparently — who have decided for themselves what “thug” means to them, and have even turned it into something GOOD (What?!?!) when popular people like rap artists use it to describe themselves (not surprising, since many of them try to be seen as threatening and menacing).

            How can you possibly say “everyone” knows and “universally?” What you mean is the people YOU hang around with or pay attention to or have an affinity for. Seriously, maybe the people who think it’s code need to examine their own attitudes towards black people. It was totally news to me and several others I’ve talked with or heard talking about it. I have referred to all kinds of people — probably all men — as thugs. I used it in talking about some Bush administration creeps. I might have even used it about a “frat boy” because they get away with a lot of thuggery. I also hear it on tv a lot, used about all different races, even aliens. I utterly reject that it is “universally” understood as racist. It’s a good, descriptive word and I’m not going to remove it from my vocabulary.

          • JamieHX

            Well, it appears that my reply to Kassie was removed, probably because Bob didn’t like it that I didn’t like what John McWhorter said in the NPR interview and because I said that Kassie is wrong and can’t say “everybody” and “universally” when those claims are not true and utterly unprove-able, and that it seems to me that most people do not mean “young black man” when they say “thug.”

          • I haven’t removed any of your comments. WordPress picked it off as SPAM. Why, I don’t know. I’ll override it.

  • Sam M

    I don’t believe he said that the police are perfect. He was merely stating that there are things we as citizens can do to help in our interactions with police.

    Cherry picking a few instances where excessive force is used seems like a cheap shot to me at police.

    • You think it’s more complicated?

      • Sam M

        It might be. How do you know for sure?

        By posting those videos you just seem to be implying that the author is saying that police are perfect… which we all know they aren’t and I don’t believe he is saying that. Just like you and I aren’t. Would I like them be closer to perfect than say myself? Yes of course.

        • The best way to know if I’m saying police are perfect is if I say police are perfect. The representatives letter speaks for itself.

          The fact is reducing violence during police stops IS more complicated than just not being a thug, a criminal, a drug dealer etc.,

          The most troubling advice is the one to not go out after 2 a.m. That’s absurd and illuminates and underlying attitude. People have every right to be out at 2:30 in the morning and they shouldn’t be suspected of wrongdoing merely because they are.

          • Sam M

            I agree it is more complicated. How does doing any of the things he listed harmful to a person. You can choose to do or not do any of them. Merely suggestions and things that people may want to keep in mind.

            I just found it unnecessary to post the videos I guess because the representative never said police were perfect. You didn’t need to remind everyone because I think at this point we all realize that point.

          • No, he said it wasn’t complicated.

            It IS complicated. It gets to long-held attitudes and, in many cases, deep racial divisions. It gets to a perspective that whites can’t even BEGIN to fathom because they don’t live a life in fear.

            The reality is that people’s behavior isn’t always because they’re thugs, drug dealers, career criminals or out after 2 a.m. Sometimes it’s because they fear that at a particular moment, they’re the next “isolated incident.”

            A good first step is for police and legislators to begin to understand that.

          • Sam M

            But you can’t fathom what it is like to be a cop either…. I think we all need to do a lot more understanding.

            Nice thread Bob. Always good to read the responses and get the brain stretched out a little.

          • You couldn’t pay me enough to pull over a car in the middle of the night on an isolated road by myself.

          • Jack

            So Mr. Cornish, if I need to run to the ER at 2:00, I’m a bad person?

          • jon

            Probably… What were you doing at 1:59 that resulted in a need to go the ER?

            Drug deal gone wrong?


          • Jack

            Possible stroke. Thank goodness I live in a small suburb where the cops know all of us and our medical problems.

            It was a hypothetical question – written during the day in the ED while being checked out for possible stroke by the neurologists.

            No illegal drugs involved.

    • BReynolds33

      I shouldn’t need to change my life to make interactions with police easier. They are not my overlords.

  • PaulK

    Or work an off-shift job. Heaven help all bartenders out there.

    • Kassie

      Exactly. Or, when I was first dating my partner, we only saw each other on weekends and would often go on late night walks or hang out by the river. But we are white, so never once did we have a problem.

  • PaulJ

    Rule #5 is the key, Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you think, it only matters what the person with the badge says.

    • Kassie

      So if they are violating your rights, let them go right ahead? Let them search your house without a warrant? Point a gun at your child? Rape you?

      How about instead we teach police to ignore what people are saying and do their jobs like professionals. When I worked in the welfare office I had vile things yelled at me, but I just kept smiling and doing my job because I was a damn professional, just like the police should be.

      • Erik Petersen

        I think the thing is, you got to be very cautious as a civilian in the presence of police BECAUSE professional policing in this country is so often atrocious.

        Its good, practical advice.

        • How would a police officer know a person is a drug-dealing, thug with a criminal past who robs people. Do they always know who they’re dealing with when they pull someone over or do they just assume?

          • Dan

            People who regularly commit crimes have more police interactions than those who don’t, fair statement or not?

          • Kassie

            Not a fair statement. I have A LOT of white friends who buy and use illegal drugs regularly and none of them has regular police interactions.

          • John Dilligaf

            #7. Don’t hang out with people who regularly violate the law.

            In the first carry training course I took, the basics came down to three things to keep yourself from being in a position to need to shoot someone:

            1. Don’t do stupid things – things like escalating a situation, etc..
            2. Don’t go to stupid places – places where you know bad things are likely to happen.
            3. Don’t hang out with stupid people – people who enjoy doing stupid things in stupid places.

            It all seemed like good advice for life in general, regardless of whether you choose to carry a weapon.

          • Jeff

            Do they do their drugs on their own property out of sight from public locations? Because that helps.

          • Rob

            I think they’re also very well- dressed when they do their drugs, so that they present as less suspicious

          • DavidG

            Even well dressed blacks are stopped by police at higher rates than white people.

          • Kassie

            The effort people will go to in order to find excuses for white people being harassed by cops less than black people is amazing.

          • White people having dominance over African Americans has an entirely different meaning and perspective depending on whether you’re white or black. This is the “complicated” aspect of this that Cornish — and many white people — utterly fail to comprehend.

          • John Climber

            I wouldn’t call it an excuse. When you have such a disparity it is reasonable to ask whether there are multiple factors involved, such as whether particular groups tend to use drugs on private or public property. Or do you have evidence that proves for an absolute fact that the disparity is caused by cops who, out of racist motives, decline to arrest white drug users? That would settle the debate.

          • Not sure what you’re saying. I don’t have data one way or another.

          • Dan

            I was asking if it’s fair to say that if you commit crimes on a regular basis, you’ll have more interactions with police than if you don’t. i.e. do police have “regulars”. Not rhetorical, as a couple people have asserted it’s irrelevant (or maybe just over broad).

            I’m not saying enforcement isn’t racially unequal, especially for drug crimes, the data is in on that point.

      • Sam M

        Yeah because yelling and screaming is going to get them to stop doing that. If your rights are being violated being a jack-wagon to the guy isn’t going to improve your situation at that particular moment.

        • Kassie

          No one said anything about yelling or screaming. It says don’t flap your jaws and don’t disobey requests. You bet I’m going to do those things if my rights are being violated. And I may be loud about it in hopes of someone with a camera catching what is happening for my future lawsuit.

          • I tried that once. They roughed me up pretty bad for telling bystanders to record my interaction. I agree with your point in theory, but wouldn’t recommend it in practice.

      • PaulJ

        Sometimes doesn’t mean every time, but the cops are trained for violence and empowered to coerce obedience; most people usually are not.

      • John Dilligaf

        Obviously, there’s a limit, but yes, if you believe the police are violating your rights, the smart thing to do is to say so without ANY physicality, and await your day in court so that the legal system can sort it out. Stand up for yourself; don’t allow a search of your person, vehicle, premises without probable cause or a warrant; but if they’re coming in despite your refusal to let them, you’re not going to come out on the winning side by physically resisting.

        Rape is obviously a different story. They’re probably not going to call for backup to restrain your resistance of their sexual assault.

  • Paul

    The Runnels video is so hard to watch; and only 4 years in prison. Pathetic.

    • Dan

      It’s disgusting, and Runnels deserves every second of those 4 years and more. The kid didn’t deserve the criminal reaction of the officer. But let’s play Cornish’s advocate for a second. What if the kid had cooperated and gotten out of the car when told?

      • Paul

        It is a good question, however he was well within his rights to only roll down his window enough to conduct a conversation with the officer – though officers don’t respond well to this tactic it seems.

        Being told why you are pulled over must happen, especially when asked.

        Long but interesting perspective:

        From this article the kid had eyes on him for some time, the cops knew who he was and knew the car well, so it begs to ask how they got the warrant “wrong.” They knew he dealt with marijuana so the probable cause of weed odor is an easy out.

  • Don’t have an air freshener hanging off your rear view mirror.

    • Jeff

      My girlfriend in college got pulled over for that one…another friend was pulled over for not turning his headlights on in a very well lit area (he didn’t realize they weren’t on) and another friend was pulled over and given a breathalyzer at 8 am when he was on his way to work to a concrete job, he blew a 0.000. The best was when my wife was pulled over for testing the road for black ice (pumping her brakes) coming into a red light at 3 am when it was 40 degrees below zero. The cop proceeded to race up behind us at 80 mph on a 55 mph road…she sped up and got into the left lane to avoid what we thought was a drunk driver about to slam into us…that’s when the siren and lights came on, he said she was going 5 mph over the limit (you know when she sped up to avoid the accident) and that’s why he was legally allowed to pull her over. He insisted upon a breathalyzer and once again she blew a 0.000. I’m pretty sure we need to have police pay a fine to citizens when the police in correctly assume someone has been drinking or are inebriated and then proceed to blow 0.000 on a breathalyzer.

  • Jeff C.

    Or just being black – period. Black people are stopped and searched more often than white people even though white people are found with illegal stuff more often.

    • The reality in any of these discussions is that there’s an entirely different relationship that people of color have with cops than white people have with cops. So, yeah, I can see how a condescending letter to the editor actually only reinforces the perceptions that keep people from getting out of their cars by the side of the highway at night.

    • Ryan Johnson

      Or being white in a predominantly black neighborhood. I got stopped 5 times in three months for walking two and a half blocks to the gas station when I lived in one.

  • krisbrowne42

    How about just not be not a cop? How many of the “Try this to not be abused” lists are posted by ex-cops or police unions?

  • BReynolds33

    Just so we’re clear… in order to avoid having excessive use of force used against you by an agent of the state, avoid availing yourself of half of the bill of rights, since it is better to side with someone sworn to protect me who has killed me than to teach the agents of the state to respect my Constitutional rights and not kill people.

  • Dan
  • Jim E

    #7) Don’t be mentally ill.

    Rep Cornish is the “state rep, who chairs a powerful committee” alluded to in a NewsCut post from Monday ( Cornish refused to hear a bill (HF 2756) which would mandate peace officer training (a whooping 4 hours over three years) in techniques for dealing with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.

  • Ben Chorn

    And don’t get rear-ended by the police:

    (Motorcyclist got $180,000 for that: )

    I think it should be further investigated why police have 2-4 times the rate of domestic violence:

  • Gary F

    If you just did those six recommendations in the article, whether black or white, it would dramatically reduce the police having to use force against you.

    Thats not a compete answer to problem but a big step.

    • One of the six recommendations involves giving up a civil right.

      • Jeff

        The don’t be out at 2 am or the freedom of speech thing?

        • PaulJ

          It is legal to be in an intersection controlled by a yellow light, but it isn’t safe.

          • Jeff

            Well the thing to keep in mind is that Cornish’s advice is just that, advice…not necessarily the legal limits of what people can do as per the US Constitution.

            I was recently reminded about why it’s a bad idea to be out late in downtown Minneapolis, last Friday I went to the Twins game with some friends and we had a couple drinks after the game. Around midnight we decided to head back home and walked a couple blocks away to see if Uber was a bit cheaper…it was. But we did hear some interesting conversations, two young black women were yelling insults back and forth and eventually they were separated. One of the friends of the girls involved in the incident said “Don’t be starting a fight, I just got out of jail on Friday and I can’t go back to jail”; mind you this was all within half a block of about 7 cops on bikes. Yep, it’s probably good advice to stay out of downtown or be out drinking at 2 am.

          • Kassie

            So your story is two women yelled at each other, nothing happened, if it did there were cops all around and you were totally safe the whole time and that’s why people should stay out of downtown at the super late hour of midnight? Or is your story there were BLACK women yelling, so somehow that made it so you should stay out of downtown?

          • Jeff

            Just helping to paint the picture, most of the cops were white and most my friends were Asian…if that helps you with the picture I was creating.

          • Rob

            It doesn’t. But some of my best friends are also Asian.

          • Jeff

            No my story was about the 2 am remark…which I confirmed as good advice, probably not the best idea to be out at a bar drinking with police everywhere at 2 am, they probably deal with quite a few people who go to jail and end up in jail…I’m pretty sure they have a very small tolerance for idiotic and violent behavior.

          • Jerry

            Yeah, and this one time I was in a small town bar at like 10, and two white men started punching each other. And there wasn’t a cop in sight. So it’s probably a bad idea to go to bars in small towns in the late evening.

          • Jeff

            It’s probably fairly unlikely you’d be shot or even arrested by police in that situation…

          • Jerry

            Just like in your story.

          • Jeff

            I’m pretty sure I was going to see someone get arrested that night if I hung around until 2 am…

          • Rob

            I hope you’ve recovered from the trauma of hearing a couple of women arguing with each other. Had they been at the same bar as you and your buds?

          • Jeff

            I don’t think so we were on the street 2-3 blocks away from the bar we were at previously…not sure where they came from or where they were going they were just yelling on the sidewalk.

            Yep, very traumatic…no, it’s just I haven’t been out at a bar downtown in years…that moment made it quite clear why it’s not a good idea to be out there too often, starting fights over nothing because people are drunk, within half a block of 7 cops…just dumb stuff like that.

        • 2 am

  • Jeff

    I have to say Cornish is mostly right about respecting police and following their orders when they’re actually right in front of you. If you want to file a complaint save it for the courtroom or police station, unless they’re asking you to do something unconstitutional (like turn your camera off) then follow their directions and make the complaint later.

    • >> If you want to file a complaint save it for the courtroom or police station, unless they’re asking you to do something unconstitutional (like turn your camera off) then follow their directions and make the complaint later.<<

      Then again, it might be difficult to file that complaint if you are dead…

  • kat

    Perhaps read the rest of the comments- many people are out after 2am for many reasons etc- I love Bob’s response to this horrible op ed

  • “I’ve got relatives that are black,” he said. “I’ve gone to five different mission trips in the jungle. I spent big money helping women adopt black kids from Africa. I don’t fit the racist mold. So they should give that a rest.”

    This is a fundamental problem with how we talk about race. You can say/do racist things even if you generally don’t discriminate. Racism is not a YES or NO thing. We all have prejudices that we need to work on recognizing and eliminating. But trying to decide who is or isn’t racist is a waste of time.

    Tony Cornish assumes that because he doesn’t have intentional malice towards black people in his heart, he couldn’t possibly say something racist.

    • Joe

      Yeah that was a cringe-worthy response from him there. His examples don’t even show that he doesn’t have intentional malice toward African-Americans. Two of them are about Africa, not America. And he just thinks of Africa as a place with jungles that need missionaries, and kids that need to be adopted. Not helping his cause at all.

    • jon


      “Look at my African American over there,” -Drumpf
      “I’ve got relatives that are black,” -Cornish
      ““When half his family is black.” -This kids mom:

      I tell you black friends/family/rally-goers just aren’t enough to stop people from doing racist things… Honestly I wonder what these black friends and family are doing if not spending all their time making sure that their white friends/family aren’t racists, I mean we all know that black people have a form they make you fill out to do a full background check for racism before marrying into a family, and any one with a black friend knows that they have to audit your planned actions to make sure they aren’t racists. Clearly though some of them are falling down on the job…

      Because lets face it, this can’t be white peoples problem.

  • Jeffrey Swainhart

    Thanks Bob.

  • Kurt O

    I’ve wondered if there could be a way to use police explorer program in combination with ride-alongs to build better relationships between police and citizens. Community leaders could show the cops around the neighborhood and meet people casually.

    • Jeff

      Kamau Bell with CNN did that, he found being put in a police simulator where he had to shoot or not shoot people to be very eye opening as to what kinds of stress a police officer goes through in those situations.

      • De-escalation training is good for everyone. Training in general is good for everyone.

  • Rob

    Cornish’s refusal to allow a hearing for the police mental illness training bill puts him squarely in the Life is Cheap camp.

    • Jeff

      I would suggest initiating a conversation with Mr. Cornish about that issue, legislators are quite open to having a discussion about specific issues. If you were to bring up the recent mental illness patients as a reason for the bill it might even be constructive…maybe you could find out why he didn’t want to hear the bill in his committee. Mr. Collins I would invite you to do the same, please contact Mr. Cornish and find out why he did what he did with that bill and offer him up some examples of those mental illness conflicts that resulted in death. I have found that talking to your legislators can be quite constructive, my MN house legislator just recently changed her vote from no to yes on Sunday liquor sales after I sent her a strongly worded email…she then proceeded to invite me over for a beer sometime. These things can be discussed if you make reasonable arguments…although it sounds like Mr. Cornish is getting flack after his most recent letter to the editor so he might be quite so quick to respond at the moment but bring it up in a week or two or next session.

      • Rob

        seriously, way to go on getting another legislator to be a yes vote for sunday liquor sales. it’s a change that’s taking way too long.

        • Jeff

          Here is how they voted in 2016, let your legislator know:

          BTW, Cornish did vote YES on Sunday liquor sales so we should give him credit there.

      • DavidG

        Rep. Cornish refuses to participate in conversations about these issues. His stock response to people that attempt to do so is “Get over it.”

        • Jeff

          Care to publish a reference that backs up your statement?

      • His stated reason is “it’s not a budget year.”

        • Jeff

          That is sort of a cop out (pun not intended) but if we want sustainable funding to go to that kind of program we would want to address it in the normal budget process instead of 1 time bonding/surplus money. At least that’s a logical reason…did you see the Sunday liquor sales debate this year? I’ve never watched so many illogical contortions and weaseling manipulation of the facts used to justify the legislators being bought by special interests. Check out that debate here:

          • Funny, though, that he held a hearing for reopening the Appleton Prison. Check the pricetag on that baby.

          • Jeff

            Well that’s the answer to your question, there is likely a special interest that sees a big payday by getting the Appleton Prison up and running…I don’t know of any mental illness special interest group spending money on legislators’ campaigns. Only we as individuals can push them into action…perhaps the families of those who have lost loved ones should form a group and inform the legislators of this issue.

          • There is such a group. It even has an entire day at the Capitol. That’s one reason it passed the Senate. It didn’t matter. A representative didn’t think his colleagues should get a chance to discuss it.

  • JamieHX

    One of the things that bothers me about the reactions to Cornish’s letter is how people are condemning his use of the word “thug,” saying it’s code for “young black man.” It seems to be their main problem with the letter. When I say “thug” I don’t have a race in mind. A few friends of mine and I were discussing this the last time it came up in the media, and we were all surprised that this was thought to be some kind of code. The same was true in a discussion I heard on NPR. Cornish shouldn’t be criticized for using a word that SOME people consider to be offensive.

    • Jeff

      So true, there is a group of the PC police attempting to categorize the term “thug” as racist when it there is no race attached to the term when the vast majority of people use it. ISIS is a group filled with thugs, those protesters who attack Trump supporters are thugs, the Nazis were (and those still around are) thugs. Anyone part of a gang or mafia are thugs…no matter if you’re black, Hispanic, Russian or Italian…your race doesn’t matter it’s your attitude and actions.

      Here is an NPR show where the attempt is made to make “thug” a racist term:

      It’s odd how the historical and even common use of the term “thug” is completely ignored.

  • JamieHX

    About the swimmers… that girl was resisting arrest. When that happens, things get ugly. If she hadn’t resisted arrest, she wouldn’t have been handled roughly.

    • That’s absolutely incorrect. She wasn’t under arrest.

      • JamieHX

        I don’t know if you know that she wasn’t under arrest. And I don’t know what the technical definition of “arrest” is as it relates to police actions. Is it more than the “stop the movement of” definition? Do they have to be putting handcuffs on you? But I do know that if the police are trying to do their job and control a crowd and someone resists, then they have to take measures to make them comply.

        • I would advise everyone understand what an arrest is and how it is to be properly conducted. You can’t assert your civil rights if you don’t know what they are.

  • Al

    Nailed it, Bob. NAILED. IT.

  • JoeInMidwest

    And don’t forget, don’t drive while being black. Being black while driving increases the risk of being pulled over. I am white, so I have that “white privilege” but I can see so many pulled over for DWB.