Falcon Heights named ‘City of Excellence’

The city of Falcon Heights received a City of Excellence Award from the League of Minnesota for its Policing and Community Initiative, work that began in 2016, after the death of Philando Castile on July 6, 2016.

Castile, a 32-year-old black man from Robbinsdale, was shot and killed by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop on Larpenteur Avenue. The incident brought a national lens to the city, and protests were held in Falcon Heights and at the governor’s mansion in St. Paul.

Shortly after the shooting, the Falcon Heights City Council appointed a Task Force on Inclusion and Policing with the mission to “articulate, affirm and operationalize our values as a community to be inclusive and welcoming environment for residents and guests of Falcon Heights, with an emphasis on policing values, policies and procedures.” The Task Force was a diverse group of 11 residents and nonresidents directed to bring recommendations to the city council by May 1, 2017. The group included Amy Johnson, Dan Johnson-Powers, Jay Colond, Jim Ballentine, Kay Andrews, Melanie Leehy, Peter Demerath, Michael Wade and Kate Thompson. Co-facilitators were Kathy Quick, associate professor at the Humphrey School, and Ken Morris, adjunct professor at Hamline University.

The task force began meeting in December 2016. In addition, advisers from the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Mitchell Hamline Dispute Resolution Institute, Minnesota Office for Collaboration and Dispute Resolution, and Metropolitan State University collaborated with the city to design a series of five community conversations. The goal was to seek input from residents and guests on “building an inclusive and welcoming community and developing policing practices that reflected the values of the community.”

The task force held 13 meetings, deliberated with the public at five Community Conversations and consulted with subject matter experts in four priority areas: policing, policecommunity relationships, citizen oversight boards and joint powers authorities.

The Task Force’s Policing and Inclusion recommendations to the city council were adopted unanimously. Implementing the Policing and Inclusion recommendations will be a longterm effort; however, the city has taken immediate steps with the following results:

• Deeper involvement by city staff and policymakers with a new contracted law enforcement agency, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department.

• Focused effort to engage under-represented groups with law enforcement.

• Targeted city programming toward under-represented youth. •Inter-governmental promotion of cross-cultural programming.

• Extensive sharing of “lessons learned” with other local governments.

• Participation in national “learning exchanges,” organized by the Kettering Foundation, that explore developing trust and consensus around safety and justice.

• Sustained engagement with all commissions about racial equity, justice and anti-discrimination.

• Hosted a Philando Castile Commemoration of Life event at Falcon Heights City Hall a year after his death with 250 attendees, including the Castile family.

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