ST. PAUL — Law enforcement leaders announced Monday, July 22, that, starting in August, they will host three public hearings to discuss the best way to handle shootings by police.

A 16-member group, co-chaired by Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Attorney General Keith Ellison, will meet Aug. 17, Sept. 28 and Oct. 17 to hear comments from all sides, including the public.

“We cannot simply work on this issue in the wake of a heart-rending, emotional, critical issue,” Ellison said at a press conference in St. Paul. “We’ve got to talk about these things when the waters have calmed a little bit and we can have a constructive community dialogue. And that is what we’re attempting to do.”

Each hearing will have three to four panels, with each panel consisting of about four witnesses who will provide testimony relevant to the topic. Participants will represent the community, academia, subject matter experts, law enforcement and prosecutors.

“The framework that we’re going to operate out of is designed to ensure that all voices … are heard in developing recommendations,” Harrington said.

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Those recommendations, which are slated to be compiled by February 2020, could include state or local policy changes, updates to procedures, legislative initiatives, training, officer wellness, community healing or recognition of best practices used by law enforcement agencies, he said.

What do the co-chairs hope these recommendations will be?

“I don’t know,” Ellison said. “We’re going to find out. The conversations we will have will yield the prescriptions that we will offer.”

Rebuilding trust

There have been 15 officer-involved shootings in Minnesota this year, of which 10 were fatal, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

There were 13 such fatalities last year, which was tied with 2015 and 2016 as the highest numbers during the 41 years that Minnesota has been collecting the information, according to BCA statistics.

The BCA says the deaths include those killed by officer gunfire, along with people who die by suicide.

One of those deaths was Philando Castile, who was shot by police in Falcon Heights in 2016. His death sparked an outcry from the community and forced law enforcement and legislators to take a closer look at how police-involved shootings should be handled.

Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, is one of the group’s members.

“When I was asked by Commissioner Harrington to be a part of this group, I was really excited,” he said. “The community and cops working together rebuilding trust and legitimacy, that’s, you know, what we have to do.”

Past council was criticized

Castile’s hopeful comments mingled with promises from others on the panel to hammer out some helpful recommendations through the public sessions.

But if past attempts at community conversations are any indication, the positive, cooperative vibe at the press conference may not last.

Under Gov. Mark Dayton, the Governor’s Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations was formed with 15 voting members, split fairly evenly between law enforcement agencies and community groups such as Black Lives Matter and the Minnesota Youth Council following the fatal police shootings of Castile and of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis.

The council was immediately criticized by some groups who said it didn’t talk enough about police accountability, had the wrong community groups on it, and was difficult for the public to find anything out about the meetings.

As for having the “right” groups at the table, Harrington and Ellison said because this was a conversation for the entire state, it would be impossible to have all groups as members, but encouraged them to show up and share during the public comment period.

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, called the Dayton council “a complete waste of our time” and said she has not decided yet if anyone from her group will attend Ellison’s sessions.

“This new working group is very police heavy,” she said. “I don’t think they are going to engage with the community in any meaningful way.”

The NAACP, another group critical of Dayton’s council, seemed willing to try again.

“We support this courageous work and are really grateful and thankful to see this flourish,” said Anika Bowie, vice president of the Minneapolis chapter.

BCA will participate

Harrington hinted about having these public meetings in May following the sentencing of former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor to 12 years in prison for the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk.

The trial renewed criticism of the BCA’s handling of officer-involved shooting investigations, with some groups, such as Gross’ accusing the BCA of going easy on officers.

Harrington, who has broad oversight of the BCA, said he will be representing the bureau and will be inviting its director to participate in the conversations to explain how current investigations are being done, including the guidelines for releasing police body camera footage from shootings.

“We’re going to be thorough,” Ellison said.

Locations and additional details for the meetings will be announced later and posted at

Who's on the panel?

Ellison and Harrington co-chair the panel which consists of the following members:

  • Medaria Arradondo, Minneapolis Police Chief
  • Clarence Castile, community advocate
  • Elizer Darris, American Civic Liberties Union-Minnesota
  • Matt Gottschalk, Corcoran Director of Public Safety, representing Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association
  • State Rep. Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis
  • State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria
  • Hennepin County Judge Mark Kappelhoff
  • Brittany Lewis, University of Minnesota Center for Urban and Regional Affairs
  • Brian Peters, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association executive director
  • Mark Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, representing Minnesota County Attorneys Association
  • Chanda Smith Baker, Minneapolis Foundation
  • Kevin Torgerson, Olmsted County Sheriff, representing Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association
  • Artika R. Tyner, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Center on Race, Leadership and Social Justice
  • Tribal law enforcement representative to be determined (the appointee withdrew due to schedule conflicts)