A new state training fund for police officers will not be named for Philando Castile, despite Gov. Mark Dayton’s recommendation intended to honor the St. Paul man fatally shot by police last year.
The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) voted 8-2 on Thursday to retain the original name of the $12 million program: the Peace Officer Training Assistance Fund. Family members and friends of Castile, who was shot and killed by a St. Anthony officer during a Falcon Heights traffic stop, were present as board members rejected the bid to rename the fund for Castile.
Dayton, who called Castile’s shooting “one of the most traumatic” events during his more than six years in office, had suggested that naming the fund for Castile could help rebuild strained relations between police and community members. But the POST Board is mostly comprised of law enforcement officers, and leaders of numerous police groups said it would have further aggravated divisions.
“We need to leave politics out of policing,” said Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis police union. He noted that the board had never named a fund after an individual, including more than 240 Minnesota law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
Kroll was the only person to testify against renaming the fund for Castile at Thursday’s hearing, though the board also received a packet of letters from law enforcement officers opposed to the governor’s recommendation. Seven people spoke in favor of the renaming.
Kroll’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile. She said the trial and eventual not-guilty ruling for Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot her son, was unjust — and that officials, again, were not taking notice.
“My son didn’t get justice,” Valerie Castile said. “Did we go through the fundamentals of the judicial system? Yes we did. But the system failed us. And now all we ask is for this training bill to be named after my son because of the manner in which he was killed.”
John Thompson, a friend of Philando’s, said law enforcement officers seem unwilling to accept criticism after police shootings. Naming the training fund after Castile, he said, would be “the least you can do for Philando.”
“You need to name that bill after Philando to remind you of Philando every time you get out of your squad car,” Thompson said.
Dayton recently appointed Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, to one of two citizen positions on the POST board. Clarence Castile urged fellow board members to use the fund as a reminder of both his nephew and the importance of better police training.
“It bridges the gap, it renews, it reinstates relationships,” he said. “It’s that olive branch being extended by law enforcement and government saying we want to try to start to rebuild.”
Castile and Timothy Bildsoe, the other public representative, were the two votes against retaining the fund’s original name.
Drew Evans, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, abstained, while the other eight members voted to keep the old name.
Clarence Castile also moved to delay the decision in order to gather more public comments, but lost on that, too.
Kroll said Dayton made “irresponsible” statements after Castile’s death, and said that culminated with the recommendation to put Castile’s name on the fund.
The Legislature approved the $12 million for the fund earlier this year, and some Republican lawmakers who helped secure the money were also critical of Dayton’s suggestion.
The POST board is responsible for outlining how local police departments will use the $12 million training fund. The money will be distributed to law enforcement agencies around the state.
Lawmakers said they want the money to be used for all types of training, ranging from dealing with people with mental illness to identifying hidden biases that affect the way people interact with each other.
Dayton released a short statement after the board’s vote.
“I stand by my recommendation to name the fund after Philando Castile,” Dayton said, “but I have always known the decision was the POST Board’s to make.”