Philando Castile's name doesn't mean it will influence millions in police training

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Philando Castile's mother Valerie said she wants the bill to help police "get out of your police car, walk around, talk to people, don't make such snap judgments because everyone's not a bad person." Minnesota House of Representatives

The deadly traffic stop of Philando Castile one year ago struck a nerve with Gov. Mark Dayton.

Approaching the Castile family the day after the shooting, he asserted his still-controversial opinion that the 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor likely wouldn't have been killed if he were white, implying an institutional bias that could have an institutional remedy.

Soon, Dayton established the the Governor's Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations, a group of police and civilians that championed a bill resulting in a fresh $12 million for statewide police training.

Last week, Dayton reinforced that this bill had been prompted by Castile's death. He recommended the new fund be named for Castile, and appointed Castile's uncle Clarence to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.

"It's my hope that this training will really be focused on that occurence," the governor said.

Former St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez's relevatory post-shooting interview presents some ways that could be done. His statements are steeped in dangerous beliefs that want for better training, such as the instant assumption that a man who smokes marijuana is more likely to kill a cop, and that this particular gun owner carried in order to defend his drugs.

The governor's council over the past year has also developed ideas for improving policing in response to the Castile shooting. They include hard recruiting from historically black colleges, having new officers spend part of their shifts helping at homeless shelters, and tracking racial data on civilians injured, which could determine when a certain officer needs to be taken aside.

However, the actual substance of the trainings to come, and whether they will specifically address the factors leading to Castile's death, haven't been decided. When they are, they'll be the prerogative of the board, independent of the recommendations of the governor or his council.

Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul), who worked on the bill, says that even she isn't quite sure what it means when legislation has mandated "diversity and implicit bias training."

"There is some language about recognizing and valuing community diversity, which is a little bit more challenging, I would think, to try to allow the POST Board to interpret. It is very vague," she says. "And when you have a POST Board that is really not reflective of diverse communities, there are very few that would insert what that could be."

But Clarence Castile could do it, Moran says. And the naming of the training fund after Philando Castile would be a peace offering from a profession that most in the black community do not view as peace officers, but want to.

According to the POST Board, the new funding bill was not passed in response to Castile, any other high profile shooting, or the protests that followed. Rather, police officers have been asking for better preparation for the mounting difficulties of their job, especially in dealing with people in mental health crisis.

Since 2015, all new officers have had special crisis training. This bill, which more than triples the money local departments got from the state last year -- for a total of $960 per officer -- will allow veterans to receive the same.

"Many of these challenges for law enforcement, it's kind of being laid at their feet," says POST Board director Nate Gove. "If you look at mental illness, that's a healthcare crisis issue, not a law enforcement issue. But sadly law enforcement is tasked with unraveling some of these challenges that people have when their own doctors haven't been able to do it. But somehow a cop on the street at 2 a.m. with limited training is supposed to figure it out."

Regarding the Castile case, Gove says the thought of bolstering concealed carry training has crossed his mind. Ultimately, he believes that officers are receiving adequate training in general because there's not been a myriad of issues surrounding it.

He's not convinced that there should be special focus given to the increasing acceptance of marijuana in society.

"You have to keep in mind a lot of the young officers are not the officers of old. They're millenials, and they have their own opinions on it," Gove says. "I think they probably have views that are not nearly as hardline law-and-order as officers of my generation."

He added Friday that even though the training mandated by the legislature cannot focus on one tragedy, "Our 150 member board must vote on and approve the name."


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