August 03, 2016 06:15 AM
Whether in your neighborhood or across Minnesota, it was a Night to Unite Tuesday.
There were more than 1,800 events in the Twin Cities alone. A big part of the event is an effort to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
But this year, National Night Out comes at a time when that relationship has been strained, especially in the town of St. Anthony Village. On July 6, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer in the neighboring town of Falcon Heights. His death sparked protests and calls for justice.
Chief John Mangseth took part in the evening of community policing. He stopped by the first of several neighborhood block parties. A gathering along 31st Avenue Northeast is one of 50-plus opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other and the 23 officers who serve and protect them. Streets were closed off, grills were fired up. Community members cooked and connected.
"St. Anthony has really grieved," lamented Jane Capel, a neighborhood block party organizer.
With a population barely above 5,000, it's a small city which doesn't experience much crime. But the one fatal incident between Castile and officer Jeronimo Yanez, created bias and trust concerns like never before.
When asked why he posted the police department's training time on the city's website Chief Mangseth replied, "We can show people that our training and what we send our officers to, helps grow our department in many ways."
The force is reaching out with events in person, like neighborhood gatherings, and online to send email alerts.
Tuesday, residents reacted to the formation of a work group involving citizens from Falcon Heights, St. Anthony Village and Lauderdale which share policing responsibilities. The group will review law enforcement policies and make recommended changes.
"I think it would open communication, I think it's an issue whose time has come," according to Capel.
The department is considering starting a Facebook page, too, to make residents feel comfortable sharing information with police, which can help prevent crimes and lead to more arrests.
Meanwhile, others voiced hopes that the National Night Out events would provide opportunities for officers to address community members and have honest conversations.
Updated: August 03, 2016 06:15 AM
Created: August 02, 2016 09:32 PM
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