The Falcon Heights City Council took the first step Wednesday night toward ending its police contract with the city of St. Anthony, a move that many residents have clamored for since a St. Anthony police officer shot and killed Philando Castile there last July.
At a special meeting, the council authorized letters to be sent to local police departments to gauge the interest in policing the city. Once those letters of interest are returned, the city can send requests for proposals, Mayor Peter Lindstrom explained.
Lindstrom and Falcon Heights' four council members have been stalwart supporters of the St. Anthony Police Department, even through the turmoil caused by Castile's death on July 6.
But no one minced words Wednesday in expressing displeasure over a resolution passed unanimously by the St. Anthony City Council on March 28.
That resolution called for making Falcon Heights solely financially liable for any incident within its borders, even though Falcon Heights has no authority to hire, train, supervise or provide any oversight to the officers.
"The fact that they want this to apply to Falcon Heights and only Falcon Heights to me is a slap in the face," Lindstrom said. "That is wrong. That is a textbook example of how not to work with a partner of 22 years, or any partner."
Council Member Pamela Harris said, "I have no less confidence today than I had six weeks ago or six months ago or six years ago in the St. Anthony Police Department. I've watched the [St. Anthony] City Council meeting video two times and read their letter to us, and I am completely unable to understand why their council made the decision to pass the resolution."
Although St. Anthony city officials said they are simply reopening negotiations, "what they will find is that they have opened and closed negotiations with us," Harris said. "It's incomprehensible that they wouldn't realize that."
Falcon Heights paid St. Anthony $672,590 for police services in 2017. The city has the option to end its contract with St. Anthony on Jan. 1, 2018, if it gives notice by July 15 of this year.
The council stopped short of saying definitively that it would end the contract and took criticism for that from the audience. The group Falcon Heights We Can Do Better presented the council with a 411-signature petition demanding that the city end its contract with St. Anthony.
"We did your work for you," said resident Chuck Laszewski. "You've talked for a long time about wanting to hear what the citizens think. We went out in a single day and talked to over 400 people. They think that contract needs to end."
Tyrone Terrill, president of the African American Leadership Council, said he was surprised to see emotion from the council members Wednesday night when he saw none from them when Castile was killed.
"You have Philando's blood on your hands, and you will always have it on your hands," he said. "You're not off the hook."