Mankato Free Press readers like Tony Cornish's 'don't be a thug' letter

The people who live near Tony Cornish have the same feelings he does about cops.

The people who live near Tony Cornish have the same feelings he does about cops.

The advice of Rep. Tony Cornish on how not to get killed by police brought widespread condemnation from liberals and people of color. The former thought Cornish was overly trusting of authority; the latter said Cornish's use of the word "thug" — as in: "don't be a thug" — was a thinly-veiled code word for black people.

Looks like Cornish won't suffer anywhere near as much judgment where he actually lives. 

A not-exactly scientific poll conducted by the Mankato Free Press found the "vast majority" of southern Minnesota-area respondents were on board with his message. At least, to a point.

To refresh, here was Cornish's six-point list of how to avoid having things go wrong:

The newspaper asked readers just a single question: Do they agree that "it's criminals, not police, who are to blame for officers' use of force," as Cornish contended in his Op-Ed for the Star Tribune? 

The poll was conducted on a voluntary basis through emails sent to Free Press readers last week. About 600 people responded. Of those, 78 percent said "People who take [Cornish's] advice are unlikely to have problems with the police."


About 16 percent responded that "even law-abiding people have reasons to fear police," and another 5.5 percent weren't sure how to answer.

Cornish's letter was a response to the shooting of Jamar Clark, and the decisions by local and federal prosecutors not to bring charges against the officers involved. The Mankato findings are a marked contrast from a recent statewide survey from the Star Tribune, which asked a number of Clark-related questions. Some 55 percent of Strib respondents believed the police version of events on the night that Clark was killed, and only 17 percent of black people did.

Even higher numbers thought cops could have been "less confrontational" in dealing with Clark. (At that time nothing more than an uncooperative suspect, the 24-year-old was taken to the ground in a chokehold, setting off a physical struggle.) Only 41 percent of all surveyed, and 11 percent of black Minnesotans, thought the situation was "handled right."   

Mankato happens to fall at the intersection of three different counties: Le Seur County (77 percent white, according to census estimates); Blue Earth County (92 percent white), and Nicollet County (94 percent white).

Maybe Tony Cornish was onto something, even if it's not applicable across the whole state. It sure seems like the perception of police is way darn different for the people who live near him. And look like him.