Gov. Mark Dayton recommended Thursday that a new $12 million law enforcement training fund be named for Philando Castile, the man shot and killed one year ago by a St. Anthony police officer.
Speaking at the State Capitol as Castile's family members flanked him, Dayton called Castile's death "one of the most traumatic" events during his more than six years as governor. The shooting drew new attention to concerns of black Minnesotans that they have been unfairly targeted by police, and Dayton said it's clear Minnesota needs to do more to help officers strengthen community relationships in an increasingly diverse state.
"We all need to live together in this state, peacefully, harmoniously, constructively," Dayton said. "It's my hope this training will really be focused on that occurrence, and making that a reality."
But a coalition of law enforcement unions said Dayton's suggestion was insulting to cops. A news release from the group said that it would "fuel deeper divisions between people of color and law enforcement." The statement came from the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, the St. Paul Police Federation, the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association and several other organizations that represent law enforcement personnel.
"Instead of providing thoughtful leadership on the anniversary of a tragic event, he holds a news conference and completely turns his back on police officers all over again," said Dave Titus, president of the St. Paul Police Federation.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis union, said the fund should be named instead for an officer killed in the line of duty.
On Friday, Dayton is scheduled to meet privately with the current and former executive directors of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, and with a group of police chiefs from across Minnesota.
He has stressed often, as he did again Thursday, that he believes all but a very few police officers are committed to serving the public.
Dayton, a DFLer, included the naming request in a formal letter to the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board, the group of law enforcement officers and community members that will sort out how to use the new training money.
The Legislature approved the funds earlier this year, adding $2 million on top of Dayton's original $10 million request. The money is likely to be distributed among police departments across the state.
The POST board will help determine the focus of the training, and it also must sign off on Dayton's request to name it for Castile. That request, and the additional training, won the backing of Castile's mother, Valerie Castile. She said she believes that police and community members share the same goals but that both could use more guidance in how to interact.
"We need this extra training for our police officers," Valerie Castile said. "Because at the end of the day, everyone wants to go home."
State Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, said that the legislation to steer new money to the training fund had strong backing from law enforcement officials and that it was intended to bolster a variety of types of training, from dealing with people with mental illness to recognizing implicit biases that shape people's interactions with each other.
Cornish noted that Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot Castile, was acquitted of a manslaughter charge. "To name it seems to be kind of taking sides on the issue, after the officer was acquitted," said Cornish, chairman of the House public safety committee.
Also Thursday, Dayton appointed Castile's uncle, Clarence Castile, to serve on the POST board. Dayton said that Castile has been active in working with the state on issues of police-community relations and that he has signed on to become a reserve officer with the St. Paul Police Department.
Clarence Castile said he's hopeful that the increased emphasis on police training will also prompt broader interest in teaching conflict-resolution skills to young people and others in the community.
"They may not have the funding, but we need people who are willing to go into schools and into rec centers and teach people how to handle situations," he said. "That's one of the things I plan on doing."
Dayton said he's hopeful the state can make progress on police-community relations, rather than growing more deeply divided over the issues raised by Castile's death and Yanez's trial.
"Remembering what occurred is essential, but constantly revisiting it beyond this point becomes counterproductive," Dayton said. "We have a responsibility of all of us engaged in public services to bring Minnesota together, and that's the spirit of this training."