St. Anthony seeks assistance from DOJ regarding police-community relations

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against St. Anthony Village after the city did not allow an Islamic center to move into the basement of a business center. 

The federal lawsuit was eventually settled and the Abu-Huraira Islamic Center opened in December 2014.

St. Anthony has recently been back in communication with the Department of Justice — this time applying for inclusion in the department’s Collaborative Reform Initiative, part of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, otherwise known as COPS.

According to a statement released by St. Anthony officials, the program is focused on helping cities find and implement ways to improve trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. 

St. Anthony contracts police services to Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, and it has been looking for ways to connect with the community after rifts developed in the wake of the fatal officer-involved shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights July 6. 

Castile, a popular African-American school cafeteria supervisor, was fatally shot by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop on Larpenteur Avenue, an incident that has caused protests, accusations of racial profiling and calls for police reform. 

“The city applied to enroll in the program to support its ongoing work to improve relations between its department, the cities it serves, and communities of color as a result of the recent tragic events,” the city said in an Oct. 5 statement. 

If the application to participate is accepted, the program will draw additional resources, experts, and other perspectives to St. Anthony. 

Recently, city leaders and the police department have begun a collaborative process to identify ways to address issues of bias, race, equity and cultural inclusion.

The council has unanimously supported the creation of a Tri-City Work Group, partnering with Lauderdale and Falcon Heights. The group will work out policies regarding police body cameras to potentially be used by St. Anthony police officers.

Another group also received support by the council: the Work Group for an Initiative on Institutional Racial Bias in Policing, appearing via a proposal from the St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action.

“St. Anthony is committed to not only discussing these important yet complex issues, but to also identifying specific changes that need to be made in a way that is accountable and transparent,” the city’s statement reads. “[This] program is an opportunity to have access to ideas and other recommendations that have been developed from work done in other communities.”

Those communities include: Salinas, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Spokane, Washington; Fayetteville, North Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland and St. Louis County, Missouri.

According to the DOJ program, it would bring proactive, non-adversarial and cost-effective technical assistance to St. Anthony’s police department. 

“St. Anthony is hopeful that it will be accepted into this program,” the city stated, “and will continue to look for ideas, resources, and other expertise to help guide the important work to address issues that are impacting the communities it serves.”

The St. Anthony Police Department has already taken steps to enhance its data collection program in regards to documenting race and gender demographic data.

The new system started Oct. 1.

“The changes we are making builds on our ongoing commitment to be transparent and accountable,” St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth said. “It is important to make sure the data we collect is consistent with information other departments are collecting to help us develop a more comprehensive understanding of race, gender and other issues that are important and complex.”

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at @JPooleNews.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here