MINNEAPOLIS — In the wake of two high-profile fatal shootings of black men by Minnesota police officers, Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that he will create a council to study how the state can improve relationships between police and the communities they serve.
Dayton said the council, which will include family members of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, will come up with recommendations to help build trust and cooperation between police and community members.
“I don’t think it’s a solution, I think it’s one approach to facing up to the problems,” Dayton said of the council.
Dayton’s executive order comes as the state still grapples with the deaths of Clark and Castile. Clark was killed during a scuffle with Minneapolis officers in November. The two white officers involved were not charged and prosecutors said they feared for their lives when Clark tried to grab an officer’s weapon.
Castile was shot by a suburban St. Paul officer during a July traffic stop. The shooting’s aftermath was streamed live online by Castile’s girlfriend, who said Castile was shot several times after telling St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, that he had a gun permit and was armed. Yanez’s attorney said his client was reacting to the presence of a gun, and the case is being reviewed for possible charges.
Both shootings led to numerous protests in Minnesota and calls for changes in the way police interact with minority communities. Community advocates have suggested police bias training and court reforms while police organizations have expressed concern about violence against officers.
“The community that I come from, there are a lot of people that are living in fear,” said Pamela Anderson, a black judge in Hennepin County and the council’s co-chair. “I want that fear to go away.”
Anderson said community engagement and training are necessary. “Training should include implicit bias, procedural justice, relationship-based policing, community interaction, crisis intervention and more,” she said. “Only through mutual trust, respect and an open mind can we create a harmonious Minnesota.”
Anderson will lead the committee with Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson. There will be 15 other voting members, including several law enforcement representatives, an NAACP official and a member of Black Lives Matter. Seventeen other members, including relatives of Castile and Clark, won’t vote on recommendations.
The council’s initial recommendations are due to Dayton and the Legislature by Feb. 15, and the final report is due June 30.
Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, thanked Dayton for his courage.
“I appreciate him stepping up to the plate and taking a giant step in the direction of change,” she said, adding that she’s been focused on reforms, including changes in police training, since the day her son was killed. She said it’s unfortunate that his death had to happen, but she’s glad it could be a catalyst for change.
“I have faith that everything is going to work itself out and everybody is going to be on the same page. I just feel in my heart that my son didn’t die in vain,” she said.
St. Anthony Village, which employs officer Yanez, and the city of Minneapolis both said they welcomed the governor’s order.
Associated Press writer Kyle Potter contributed to this story from St. Paul, Minnesota.