Meeting in Falcon Heights, Minn. highlights community's distrust of St. Anthony Police

- A listening session in front of the Falcon Heights city council highlighted potential profiling by the St. Anthony Police Department.

Dozens stood up and described their experiences with police. Most painted a picture of a department disconnected from its community members, and one that singles out people of color.

One woman was told her headlights were “too bright” while others said they were never even given a reason for the traffic stop. Meanwhile, white members of the community reported rarely or never getting pulled over.

Kay Andrews has a son and several grandsons, all of whom are black. She says while she has never had a run-in with police as a white woman, her grandsons have had many.

“When the cops know my son and grandson by their first name even when they don’t have a police record, other than some traffic tickets—something  is wrong,” she said.

Most that stood up to talk said they avoid Larpenter Avenue because of the likelihood of being pulled over. Larpenter is where 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot and killed July 6.

John Thompson worked with Castile at St. Paul Public Schools in the food service division. He describes a man who truly loved not only the students he served, but everyone he came in contact with. Thompson recently got the opportunity to meet with representatives from the U.S. Department of Education at JJ Hill Montessori.

“I asked a lot of the white guys in there: how many times have you been pulled over on a simple traffic stop just a simple traffic stop and they made you do this,” Thompson got on his knees with his hands behind his head. “Every time I get out of my car for the police I have to do that and especially down that strip of Larpenter.”

He asked the city council to be a voice for people like him, and to make a change.

Many in the community have been upset at the lack of response by the council in the wake of Castile’s death. 

“The trust between citizens and the St. Anthony Police has been tainted and not acting isn’t an option,” said one man.

The council said they are trying to figure out what their response will be, and information gathered at Wednesday’s listening session will help them come to that conclusion.

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