For six months, the Falcon Heights Task Force on Policing and Inclusion sought ways to make the community and those who police it safer, more inclusive and more welcoming, particularly to minorities.
The task force, which arose out of the uproar over Philando Castile's shooting on July 6, met 14 times since December and held four listening sessions that drew 145 people. In May, it presented two lists of recommendations to the City Council. One set addressed police-community relations and was approved by the council in late May.
The other set, on community inclusion, was approved at Wednesday night's meeting, but not before some in the audience were left wondering whether the council was truly committed to change or whether it had just wasted the time of task force members.
The inclusion recommendations call for forming a committee for racial reconciliation and healing and for dedicated city staff to build relationships, trust and opportunities for those who have been excluded.
Council Member Pam Harris was skeptical that the city would be able to implement all the recommendations.
"I just don't think we have the staff resources to create another committee," she said. "We cannot run our staff into the ground asking them to do more and more."
Council Member Tony Fischer suggested taking the recommendations to the city's Community Engagement Commission.
Council Member Randy Gustafson, one of two council liaisons to the task force, suggested including the recommendations in discussions of the 2018 budget or seeing if there was any wiggle room left in the 2017 budget.
A clearly frustrated Kate Thompson, one of nine task force members, told the council, "You have a mandate from your community. These recommendations were not created as a wish list or a checklist.
"We're asking for accountability," she said, "not this lackluster, this hesitation, this resignation. We're asking you to show up for us."
Akil Foluke said, "I want to remind you why this happened. Philando Castile was murdered here.
"You sit here and talk about community engagement," he said. "You guys are not showing community engagement."
City administrator Sack Thongvanh said he was already reaching out to foundations and community groups.
The council also approved a resolution Wednesday directing Thongvanh to send a second letter to the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office asking to continue discussing policing options. The council heard June 7 from Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier and Undersheriff Terry Soukkala about options: joining the seven-city group that already is patrolled by the Sheriff's Office or negotiating an independent contract.
The St. Anthony Police Department has patrolled Falcon Heights for 22 years. But protesters and residents alike clamored for a change after Castile was shot by officer Jeronimo Yanez.
Falcon Heights has until July 15 to opt out of its police contract with St. Anthony.
Full task force reports are available at www.falconheights.org. A fifth community meeting is scheduled for Monday night.