Falcon Heights Task Force Unsure of Future After Yanez Verdict

June 18, 2017 10:31 PM

A group of nine Falcon Heights residents, tasked with finding ways to improve community ties with police, is unsure what's to come at their final community meeting scheduled for Monday.

After Friday's acquittal of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, many are wondering if their work needs to continue.

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Yanez was charged with manslaughter for shooting and killing Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in 2016. A jury recently found him not guilty on all charges.

After the shooting, Falcon Heights appointed a handful of residents to a special task force. The group's goal was to come up with recommendations that they felt the city of Falcon Heights should demand and expect from its police partner.

Falcon Heights currently contracts with the city of St. Anthony to provide police services.

But as leaders in Falcon Heights move to sever that agreement, members of the task force believe there is still work to be done.

RELATED: Falcon Heights, Ramsey County Discuss Policing Services

"There continues to be a great deal of concern," said member Peter Demerath. "We do believe police officers will be more effective if they work closely as possible with community members."

Demerath said as the city looks to contract with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services, he believes that shouldn't change the work from the past year.

"It's our hope that whatever police force does work with us will adopt these recommendations," Demerath said.

Several recommendations include creating an "anti-discrimination culture" and earning "mutual safety through mutual trust."

But some worry that the verdict in the Yanez case has opened old wounds.

Dan Johnson-Powers is a firefighter in Falcon Heights who serves on the task force.

"People tend to be clumped as either pro-Black Lives Matter or pro-police, and there's no room for being in the middle," Johnson-Powers said. "One of the things that I'm proud of with the task force is that I think that the task force ended up in the middle. I don't know what the implications of the verdict will be."

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Kirsten Swanson

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