Community members will have three chances this week to tell federal officials about their experiences with the St. Anthony police.
The Department of Justice is hosting a series of listening sessions Monday through Wednesday in St. Anthony, Falcon Heights and Lauderdale. The public is invited to provide insight into the suburban police department's policies and procedures.
Eight experts with the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, also known as COPS, and the Chicago firm Hillard Heintze will attend the meetings to hear directly from community members.
Ronald Davis, who directs the COPS office, said the team brings a necessary outside and objective perspective when identifying challenges within law enforcement agencies. St. Anthony is the 16th city in the nation to join the initiative.
Davis said working with other cities gives his staff an ability to see patterns that might otherwise go unacknowledged by local municipalities.
"We're in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Memphis, Spokane, Fayetteville," he said. "And in many cases, the disparities we're seeing around the country are unfortunately consistent."
But that national context will also help his team develop best practices and solutions that have proven effective in other cities, he said. For example, on the issue of use of force, they can recommend strategies emphasizing de-escalation and communication.
St. Anthony is the smallest department to participate in such a review — and yet in terms of size, it is representative of the vast majority of police departments around the United States. About 75 percent of police departments have fewer than 25 officers — roughly the same size as St. Anthony's.
Resident Kristine Lizdas, who has been pushing for the city to address racial disparities in policing, said she hopes whatever recommendations come out of the reform process can be a model for cities around the country.
"St. Anthony really captures what happens to policing in predominately white suburbs in highly segregated metropolitan areas," she said. "And I think we have this unique opportunity to explore the dynamics of that particular situation."
The entire process, which includes the initial assessment and implementation of recommendations, is expected to take about two years.
St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot Castile, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts for dangerous discharge of a firearm near the passengers in the car at the time of the shooting.
The sessions are set for these times and locations in the three cities served by St. Anthony police:
• Monday, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Falcon Heights Elementary School gym, 1393 Garden Ave. W., Falcon Heights
• Tuesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m., St. Anthony Village High School Auditorium, 3303 33rd Ave. NE, St. Anthony
• Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Lauderdale City Hall, 1891 Walnut St., Lauderdale