- Associated Press - Thursday, December 15, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A federal agency announced Thursday that it will begin a comprehensive review of a Minnesota police department, months after one of its officers shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop.

The review by the Justice Department’s office of community policing was requested by the city of St. Anthony and is voluntary. The office will assess the police department in many areas, including interactions with the public, traffic stops and hiring practices, and come up with recommendations to improve services and build trust.

After issuing an initial report, the office will work with St. Anthony for 18 months to help implement changes.

“The city is asking us to be very critical,” said Ronald Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. “The truth can hurt, but selective ignorance is fatal. So the chief and mayors are willing to be told the hard truths about what’s working and not working in the department.”

Castile, who was black, was killed July 6 during a traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, which is patrolled by police from St. Anthony, also a suburb. The shooting’s gruesome aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by his girlfriend, who was in the car along with her young daughter. Prosecutors said the 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker was shot at seven times after he told an officer he was armed and had a license to carry a weapon.

Castile’s family has said he was profiled because of his race, and his death renewed concerns about how law enforcement officers interact with minorities.

St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors said he acted unreasonably and was not justified in using deadly force. Yanez’ attorneys have asked that the charges be dismissed, and said that Castile never told Yanez he had a permit to carry.

Castile’s shooting prompted numerous protests, including a demonstration outside the governor’s mansion that went on for weeks, and protests at city council meetings in St. Anthony and Falcon Heights, where citizens demanded police department changes.

Arrest data analyzed by The Associated Press in the days after Castile’s death showed St. Anthony police disproportionately arrested African-Americans in the three cities they patrol. Census data shows just 7 percent of residents in St. Anthony, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights are black, but black people account for roughly 38 percent of arrests since 2011.

St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust said all three cities support the review.

“This is not the only tool in the toolbox, but it is one that will help us at least identify issues and make systemic changes as we need to,” he said. “They look forward to being analyzed, to being probed, to being prodded, and their goal is to be better police officers.”

St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth added that his department welcomes the process and is committed to making necessary reforms.

Tyrone Terrill, president of the African American Leadership Council in St. Paul, was unimpressed.

“They’re doing what they have to do to make themselves look good,” Terrill said. “How many police departments call in DOJ before they have a tragedy? If they’d called beforehand, Philando Castile would be alive.”

St. Anthony is the 16th police department nationwide to be part of this type of review. With its roughly 25 sworn officers, it is also the smallest. Other cities that have participated include Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Davis said the review will include an assessment of thousands of pages of documents, police ride alongs, interviews and community listening sessions. The hope is that recommendations will serve as a model for smaller police departments across the country.

The review is different from investigations by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which result in consent decrees and mandated reforms. Davis said his office’s reviews are done by request, and it’s up to the departments to decide if they want to implement recommendations.

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Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/amyforliti . More of her work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/amy-forliti

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