Leading up to Tuesday’s verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the Stillwater police department had been on high alert, pre-planning with others in the cities and Washington County’s networks to maintain peace at a time that Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski called a period of high stress.
“There’s a lot of raw nerves in Stillwater about these things; there’s a lot of raw nerves everywhere. And when it’s right in your back yard I think it changes people’s perspective, some for the better, some for the worse,” Kozlowski said during council’s April 20 session, mere hours after the jury had made its decision.
Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges brought against him in the death of George Floyd last May: murder in the second and third degrees and second degree manslaughter.
In addition to the concerns over the Chauvin verdict, Washington County and Stillwater were also in the spotlight connected to the shooting of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center. That case was sent to Washington County attorney Pete Orput for charging.
Locally, Stillwater had seen only peaceful demonstrations the Friday and Saturday before closing statements were made this past Monday, said Stillwater Police Chief Brian Mueller.
“I can appreciate how hard it is to stand there and protect people,” said Kozlowski, speaking to Chief Mueller. “Some of them are there to condemn you personally and your profession.”
Kozlowski acknowledged the tension involved in confrontations between police and protesters, referring to demonstrations as “hard situations” before also applauding the local police department’s ability to keep the peace in Stillwater.
“The fact that we can have a safe protest where no one gets arrested and no one gets hurt, no property gets destroyed — I mean, I hate to wear that as a badge of honor right now but it kind of is one, unfortunately.”