MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The St. Paul suburb of St. Anthony is addressing concerns about the training and diversity of its police force, weeks after one of its officers fatally shot a black motorist.
Questions about officer training surfaced after the July 6 shooting of Philando Castile, 32, who was killed during a traffic stop. Castile's girlfriend recorded the immediate aftermath of the shooting live on Facebook and said Castile was shot while reaching for his ID after telling St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez he had a gun permit and was armed.
Yanez's attorney has said the officer was reacting to the presence of a gun and that one reason Yanez stopped the vehicle is because he thought Castile looked like a "possible match" for an armed robbery suspect.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating.
St. Anthony's statement, posted on its website this week, doesn't specifically mention Castile, but acknowledges that recent events have raised questions about the preparedness of its officers. Police Chief Jon Mangseth said in a response to emailed questions Friday that the statement directly addresses some of those questions.
"We share the sadness, grief and shock over what has happened," the city's statement said. "We also share the commitment to be part of the conversation ... to better understand what happened, what we can learn from this and how we all move forward."
According to the city's statement, St. Anthony's 23 officers average nearly 80 hours of training each year, well above what the state requires. Mangseth said programs include active shooter training, de-escalation techniques and cultural outreach and mental health training.
Dennis Flaherty, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, said the state requires police officers to undergo at least 48 hours of training every three years, the equivalent of 16 hours each year.
He didn't have average training hours for officers statewide, but guessed most departments go above what's required. Based on the figures St. Anthony released, he said, "it looks like they are indeed a department that places a great emphasis on training."
The city released data Friday that detailed training taken by individual officers. Details about Yanez's training was released earlier: A summary showed he had more than 350 hours of training from November 2011 through the first half of 2016, including use of force, active shooter and de-escalation training.
Mangseth said that diversifying the police force has also been an ongoing focus for the past several years.
The city's police force includes three minorities, all of whom were all hired since 2011, Mangseth said. Yanez, who is Latino, is included in that number. The department also has a community service officer, who is black, while four of its 12 reserve officers are also minorities, Mangseth said.
The St. Anthony Police Department serves the cities of St. Anthony, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights — where Castile was shot. At a listening session last week, Falcon Heights residents urged the city to end its contract with St. Anthony Police Department.
Yanez remains on leave while the shooting is investigated.
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