City leaders in Falcon Heights, the St. Paul suburb where Philando Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop earlier this month, got an earful on Wednesday night. They heard from constituents during a “listening session” which replaced a regularly scheduled council meeting. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Echoing calls from Black Lives Matter St. Paul, some residents have demanded that the city cut ties with the St. Anthony Police Department [with whom it contracts for patrol service] because of the shooting and concerns about racial profiling — which they say is especially rampant on the stretch of Larpenteur Avenue where Castile was stopped.
At the council’s last meeting, members urged constituents to let the investigation play out before making any decision about the contract. The two cities are in the second year of their current five-year contract.
But at Wednesday’s meeting, former Falcon Heights mayor Tom Baldwin told the council, “I hear you say that you don’t have significant facts on this incident. I respectfully but strenuously disagree.”
Not mentioned is whether Baldwin went on to cite those significant facts, and whether anything he offered could adequately inform a decision about the contract.
Presumably, Baldwin knows the same information we all do about the Castile shooting. The scant facts known hardly provide sufficient context for making a responsible decision. It has been less than a month since the incident. Letting the investigation play out before responding with a major policy change seems like the responsible thing to do. But reason and responsibility are not the primary motivators here.
Neither did those traits abound next door in St. Anthony, where a similar meeting played out on Tuesday:
… residents of St. Anthony spoke for nearly three hours at a public forum held by their City Council. More than 75 people turned out to push for a conversation about race relations in the village. Citizens criticized the council for its lack of response following Castile’s death and demanded a series of listening sessions for locals to voice their grievances, among other requests.
Lack of response. Again, the incident occurred less than a month ago and remains the subject of an ongoing investigation. What kind of “response” is a city council supposed to have? They set policy. To do so, they need accurate and thorough information. They do not currently have that.
The article does not cite any comment from city council members in either Falcon Heights or St. Anthony, which is unfortunate. They are each no doubt keeping their heads low to avoid becoming targets of Black Lives Matter. But someone in a position of leadership ought to stand up for sobriety and due process.