Falcon Heights seeks applicants for two groups on police policy

City task force will focus on policing after killing of Castile

Following a recent work session that ended early because of protests and a regular council meeting canceled because of ongoing disruption concerns, the special Falcon Heights City Council meeting Sept. 21 went relatively smoothly.

The council members discussed two topics: a Tri-City Work Group with Lauderdale and St. Anthony, which would work out policies regarding police body cameras to potentially be used by St. Anthony police officers, and a Falcon Heights Inclusion and Policing Task Force.

The council voted unanimously to move forward with the work group and the task force two months after Philando Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer during a July 6 traffic stop on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights.

Falcon Heights and Lauderdale contract with the St. Anthony Police Department for police service.

Falcon Heights’ contribution to the Tri-City group will be two residents and council members Pamela Harris and Tony Fischer. St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth will co-chair the group with members selected by the cities’ mayors.

As explained at the meeting, state law requires police departments to have policies in place regarding body cameras before the cameras can go into use. City Administrator Sack Thongvanh said while the Tri-City group will be discussing body cameras, it’s not a forgone conclusion the city or police department will decide to use them.

Meeting attendees, during public comment on the Tri-City group, again criticized the council for what they deemed to be too little or too slow of action on the part of the council following the killing of Castile, an African-American school cafeteria supervisor.

A recurring demand is that Falcon Heights end its contract with the St. Anthony Police Department, which protestors assert has had a pattern of racial profiling. Mayor Peter Lindstrom said the city is in the second year of its five-year contract and could use an opt-out clause before next July, if the council were to choose to do so.

Lindstrom introduced the Inclusion and Policing Task Force by mentioning Castile’s death.

“There’s nothing we can do up here that can change what happened that night but our duty is to respond and to take action without delay,” he said.

The task force will try to answer a number of questions and make recommendations, Lindstrom said, including whether Falcon Heights should end investigative stops — Castile was pulled over for a broken taillight but no moving violations — and what the best practices are when it comes to policing and dealing with implicit racial bias.

It will be made up of nine Falcon Heights residents or people who work in the city, along with council member Randy Gustafson and Lindstrom serving as non-voting council liaisons. 

Lindstrom said the task force would have a May 1 deadline to make its recommendations, but he said he hoped the group will make them sooner and that an interim report would be expected by the end of the year.

Thongvanh said applications for both the Tri-City group and the city task force should be available on the Falcon Heights website early in the week of Sept. 26. Go to www.falconheights.org.

The city will accept applicants for both the Tri-City group and task force for two weeks from the date the applications become available.

The Falcon Heights council held a work session to discuss the city task force Sept. 7; the council and city staff eventually walked out of the work session following protester disruptions. The city then canceled the regularly scheduled Sept. 14 city council meeting, citing the continued disruptions at city meetings.

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

 

 

 

 

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