Minnesota governor appoints police-community council, including Black Lives Matter rep

- With his arm embracing Philando Castile’s mother, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton walked out of a Capitol briefing room on Wednesday trying to find answers to rebuilding trust with police departments across the state.

Just moments before, Gov. Dayton signed an executive order creating a Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations. The goal of the 32-member panel is to come up with recommendations for police agencies and legislators on how to rebuild citizen trust with police.

“This is all about relationships,” said Chief Scott Johnson of the Grand Rapids Police Department. “If you don’t have trust, you don’t have relationships.”

Chief Johnson is the co-chair of the governor’s council along with Hennepin County Judge Pamela Alexander.

“You know, the community that I come from there is a lot of people that are living in fear,” said Judge Alexander. “I want that fear to go away. I want people to feel like they can live in their communities and be a part of their communities and have a voice in their communities. That’s why I’m going to devote my time to this.”

The panel will consist of 15 voting members and 17 ex-officio members. Among the voting members will be a representative from Black Lives Matter, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the faith-based group ISAIAH, and the Minnesota Tribal Nations. A representative from Minnesota County Attorneys Association and one from the National Black, Latino, Asian, and Somali Peace Officers Associations will also have a seat at the table.

Among the non-voting members will be a representative from Philando Castile’s family and Jamar Clark’s family.  Clark was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer in 2015 as evidence showed he grabbed the officer’s gun. The homicide was ruled justified by the Hennepin County Attorney. Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer on July 6 during a traffic stop. That case is now in the hands of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. Both shootings brought weeks of protests led by Black Lives Matter and other community groups.

“We’re not prejudging anybody or anyone in this endeavor,” said Gov. Dayton. “Many law enforcement agencies in Minnesota have excellent community relations living with everyone in their jurisdictions. In other areas there are greater challenges.  And we need to face up to those challenges and see what we can do to move ahead, all of us one Minnesota together.”

The Council has until February 15, 2017 to come up with preliminary recommendations to the governor and the legislature. A final report is due by June 30, 2017.

“The problem is we don’t talk about this,” said Chief Johnson. "We spend too much talking at each other.  Maybe it’s time that we start talking about it and talk with each other actually doing something about it.”

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