Training board won’t name fund in Castile’s honor

Published 9:56 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota board that oversees police training and standards has rejected Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal to name a new fund after a black motorist who was killed by an officer last year.

The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training voted 8-2 on Thursday against the proposal to name the $12 million training fund for Philando Castile, whose July 2016 shooting gained widespread attention after his girlfriend streamed its aftermath live on Facebook.

Community members favored the Democratic governor’s proposal, but many in law enforcement were against it, saying that since then-St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted, the proposal felt like a slap in the face.

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Yanez, who is Latino, shot Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, during a traffic stop after Castile told the officer he had a firearm. Authorities later discovered that Castile had a permit to carry it. During his manslaughter trial, Yanez testified that he feared for his life. A jury acquitted him, and he has since left the police department.

The Minnesota Legislature set aside the funding this year to better train police officers in diverse communities. It was up to the board to name the fund and work out specifics of training, in conjunction with individual police departments. In the end, the board kept the fund’s original name — the Peace Officer Training Assistance Fund. The two votes in support of changing the name came from the board’s two public members, including Castile’s uncle, Clarence.

Clarence Castile said Thursday that naming the fund for his nephew would show the community that police are working to fix relationships that have been damaged by police shootings.

“It bridges the gap, it renews, it reinstates relationships,” he said. “It’s that olive branch being extended by law enforcement and government saying we want to try to start to rebuild.”

Others, including Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, also spoke in support of the name change, the Star Tribune reported.

Lt. Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police union, spoke against the change, saying it would divide Minnesotans. He said that more than 240 law officers in Minnesota have died in the line of duty, and no fund was named after them.

“We need to leave politics out of policing,” he said.

Dayton drew criticism last year for quickly suggesting Castile’s race was a primary factor in his death. When he suggested the fund be named after Castile, he called it a “very positive step forward to begin healing.”

Dayton said after the vote that he stands by his recommendation, but knew the decision was up to the board.