Task force provides recommendations to reduce deadly police encounters

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A Minnesota working group on reducing police-involved deadly force encounters is recommending that officers should get better training in de-escalation skills and in dealing with people experiencing mental health crises.

The task force, put together by Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, released 28 recommendations on Monday for reducing the number of incidents where officers use deadly force in Minnesota.

The recommendations are the result of six months of public hearings around the state and sometimes contentious conversations among the task force, which included community activists, law enforcement and other key stakeholders.

“I guarantee you nobody got every single thing that they wanted, but we came together around some recommendations that we believe will preserve life, not only of community members but of police officers too,” Ellison said.

In his opening remarks at a news conference in St. Paul, Ellison highlighted one recommendation that officers “develop and respond appropriately to people with disabilities.”

“A substantial number of people, between 30 and 50%, who lose their lives in a deadly force encounter, are in a mental health crisis,” Ellison said.

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The group also recommended creating a family liaison position within the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to work directly with families impacted by police shootings.

Clarence Castile was among the members of the working group. His nephew Philando Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop in 2016.

He applauded a recommended review of all police body-worn camera policies with the potential of implementing a statewide body camera program for all departments.

Others, including Elizer Darris of the ACLU, echoed the need for changes and spoke about the challenges of getting the group to reach a consensus.

“This isn’t easy stuff. The easiest thing would have been to leave the table. The easiest thing would have been to not engage in conversations and not to take a really firm stance when it was necessary,” Darris said. “Recognizing the hurts and the pains run deep from both sides, so it was an important table for us, organizationally, to sit.”

The group said its recommendations are the first step in a plan to create real changes, but members of law enforcement on the task force stopped short of endorsing all of the group’s suggestions.

“We are concerned about some recommendations – particularly as they relate to the due process of officers who’ve been exonerated and the potential financial burden for agencies to implement some of the training (and) technology initiatives that are being proposed,” said Sheriff Kevin Torgerson, of Olmsted County.

To read the full executive summary of the recommendation for police, click here

The Associated Press contributed to this report.