Criminal justice professor weighs in on Blevins case

By Ryan Patchin
Posted August 1, 2018

Metropolitan State University New Main sign

With the release of police body-cam video footage earlier this week, experts are weighing in on the police-involved shooting of Thurman Blevins, including James Densley, criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University.

In the video, Blevins, who can be seen seated on the curb, begins to run when approached by Minneapolis Police Officer Justin Schmidt. Officer Schmidt ordered Blevins to put his hands up. Left wondering why a seemingly clear command went unanswered, professor Densley says “the historical distrust of police in the black community and a lot of the situations we’ve had with officer’s use of force, perhaps a natural inclination in those situations might be for someone to run.”

Densley said context is important when trying to understand Blevins’ decision.  

“This is one of those cases for me that is awful but lawful — it’s a term that often gets thrown around in law enforcement,” Densley said. “I think it’s a reference to the fact that this is obviously a tragedy. It’s a terrible shooting and really a terrible set of circumstances, but by the letter of the law, the officer has acted appropriately.”

Densley has been working alongside Hamline University criminology and criminal justice professor Jillian Peterson in training police in de-escalation techniques and crisis intervention. He said they emphasize to police the importance of “giving time, giving space and just slowing things down.”

Read more: Pioneer Press, July 31, 2018