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Falcon Heights takes police discussion behind closed doors amid protests

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The mayor and city council in the Twin Cities suburb where Philando Castile was fatally shot by a police officer are talking about bringing change to police policies in Falcon Heights.

But on Wednesday evening they apparently had trouble hearing their own conversation over the shouts of protesters at their meeting.

According to media reports, the council and mayor eventually moved their workshop on a proposed task force to a private area.

What's being proposed?

Wednesday's meeting was held to discuss a proposal by Mayor Peter Lindstrom, who has suggested Falcon Heights put together an Inclusion and Policing Task Force to make recommendations on policing in the city.

According to a description of the plan included in Wednesday night's agenda, the task force would consist of 12 to 15 people who either live in Falcon Heights, work there, or own a business there.

Members chosen by the city council would report back by next May with recommendations on a handful of issues:

  • Best practices for police policies, especially on the use of force and building trust
  • Police training, especially on implicit bias and de-escalation
  • Community-based policing and strengthening links with residents
  • Diversity and inclusion on the police force
  • Data collection

Under the mayor's proposal, task force members would also take part in a citizen's academy to help them understand the work of police officers.

After their report was filed, the police chief would have 30 days to respond with explanations of how each recommendation would be integrated into policy or why it would not be.

But Falcon Heights doesn't have a police department

The officer who shot Castile during a July traffic stop, touching off weeks of protests, serves with the St. Anthony police department. St. Anthony provides police service on a contract basis to two neighboring cities, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale.

Since Castile's death, protesters have been demanding that Falcon Heights sever its police contract with St. Anthony. According to a Pioneer Press reporter, those demands were renewed Wednesday evening.

KARE 11 reported this summer that Falcon Heights spends about $600,000 per year on its police contract with St. Anthony, which runs through 2019.

The Star Tribune reports that after the mayor and city council left the room Wednesday evening, a 15 to 20 minute conversation followed between a group of mostly older white residents of Falcon Heights and a group of protesters, most of whom were black. One woman told the newspaper it was the best listening session she'd ever attended.

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