After hours of discussion, the Falcon Heights City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved resolutions to create a task force to make recommendations on police policies, procedures and training and a second tri-city group to talk about police officer body cameras.
The discussion was far less combative and more collaborative than a council work session Sept. 7 that was cut short after protesters and residents alike vented their anger over the July 6 shooting of Philando Castile. Castile, 32, was killed by St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez. Falcon Heights and Lauderdale have contracts with St. Anthony to provide police services.
The Tri-City Work Group will include four members from each city. It will make nonbinding recommendations on body-cam policies.
The Inclusion and Policing Task Force will focus on data collection, policies and training, “especially implicit bias and de-escalation training.” It will include nine people who live or work in Falcon Heights and two council members. It will submit its final report by May 2017.
Residents and protesters alike praised the council over the task force and work group. But many were frustrated that the city has taken no concrete action since Castile was killed 2½ months ago.
“What are y’all going to do?” asked speaker Tayvion Owens. “We need to see something happen. People are getting frustrated. People are afraid for their lives every day.”
John Thompson, a vocal protester at the last meeting, said of the task forces, “I do believe that’s a step forward at least. That’s something I didn’t see when I came here before.
“I don’t have all the answers,” said Falcon Heights Mayor Peter Lindstrom. Let’s put all of us in a room together and come up with some solutions to make this city better.”
Melanie Levhy of Falcon Heights said, “I know Philando’s not here. But let this be a legacy for Philando’s mama.”
Several speakers suggested some real action the mayor and council could take: If and when Yanez returned to patrolling duties, tell the St. Anthony Police Department they don’t want him patrolling their streets. Tell the police chief that all technical traffic stops in Falcon Heights — excepting those for DWI, speeding or running a stoplight — should stop.
Lindstrom said Falcon Heights is in year two of a five-year contract with the St. Anthony Police Department. There is an opt-out option, so the council can decide by July whether or not to stay in.
“Will you?” asked Christine Chitambar of Falcon Heights.
“That’s a good question,” the mayor answered. “One the council will have to decide on in the months ahead.”