League of Women Voters study looks at area policing

The killing of Philando Castile by a St. Anthony police officer in Falcon Heights July 6 has made people take a hard look at how police service is delivered in the area.

In the year running up to Castile’s death, the League of Women Voters Roseville Area conducted a police study in its member cities, which provide police service in a variety of ways.

Roseville and Maplewood have their own police departments, while Little Canada contracts for police service from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office. Falcon Heights and Lauderdale contract with the St. Anthony Police Department for service.

LWV conducted the study 2015-2016. It included a November 2015 police chiefs’ panel and was concluded prior to the Falcon Heights shooting. 

Chiefs who participated in the panel and who were interviewed for the study include Roseville Police Chief Rick Mathwig, Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell, Ramsey County Sheriff Matt Bostrom and the now retired former St. Anthony Chief John Ohl.

The study generated six recommendations to cities that those who conducted the study say were prescient, including advice on data collection, evaluating how service is delivered and how to train police in dealing with mental health crises, domestic violence and avoiding racial profiling.

 

Recommendations

While Falcon Heights examines how it’s policed — residents at a July 27 city listening session called for an end of its contract with St. Anthony — the sentiment is in line with one of the League’s recommendations. 

Per the study, the League, “Recommends that all cities periodically evaluate police cost-analysis and service delivery.”

Mindy Greiling, a LWV member who represented the Roseville area in the Minnesota House from 1993 to 2013, said it’s good governance to do so, and in light of Falcon Heights, “our study ... is right on the mark.”

As stated in the study, the League also, “Supports diversity training for all police officers,” including implicit bias training, which teaches officers how to recognize their unconscious impulses and racial biases.

“That’s being done,” said Rita Mills, president of the Roseville LWV, “but they need more.” 

The study also identifies and recommends types of training for dealing with mental health crises and domestic violence situations, and recommends police departments collect data to hold officers accountable with respect to racial profiling and to track situational training.

 

Study formation

Mills said the 96-year-old League of Women Voters came about to educate women about issues, after they were given the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

“[The League] does not support or endorse a candidate or party, but sticks to issues,” said Mills, a retired teacher who lives in Little Canada and taught in the Roseville Area School District for 19 years.

Mills co-chaired the study with Greiling and League member Carrie Dickson.

Originally, Greiling said, the study was to focus only on how police service was delivered in the five cities.

The scope grew to include mental health crises because Greiling said one of her children suffers from mental health issues. 

Other League members were interested in looking at domestic violence issues, and as police shootings of African Americans in Minnesota and elsewhere continued to dominate the news, Greiling said, the League decided to look at racial profiling as well.

 

Hard numbers

Beyond its recommendations, the study compiled information about the four departments that provide police services to the Roseville LWV cities.

When looking at how service is delivered, the study records officer salaries. Those from the Maplewood Police Department are paid the most, with an average salary of $112,000, while a Roseville officer makes an average of $73,000. 

St. Anthony Police officers, who patrol Falcon Heights and Lauderdale, make an average of $107,263 per year.

The study also records the percentage of its budget that a city pays for policing, among other information — Lauderdale devotes 50 percent of its budget to police service while only 13 percent of Roseville’s goes towards its police department.

The study also records the various departments’ philosophies of policing. While Roseville’s stated values embrace establishing “connections with all community members and rely[ing] on positive relationships to solve problems in Roseville,” the study notes St. Anthony prints “Safety through Service” on its squad cars.

Greiling said St. Anthony relies on “broken window” policing, “rather than community policing,” such as in Roseville.

“If I were on a council, I’d ask, ‘What is your philosophy?’” Greiling said.

The study also provides a breakdown of the racial, gender and ethnic makeups of the various departments. Ramsey County is the most diverse, with 10 percent of its officers being Asian American and other ethnic backgrounds, though it's still 86 percent white, overall.

Roseville has the highest reported percentage of female officers — eight out of the 47-person-strong force are women, for 17 percent.

The study also looked at the racial makeup of the cities, concluding that, “An overwhelming majority of our police officers are white, but so are our cities.”

 

Not just “old white ladies”

At the League-sponsored police chief panel last year, Maplewood Chief Schnell said, “I think right now is a very difficult time to be in law enforcement.” Then-St. Anthony Chief Ohl echoed his sentiment, adding, “Public perception is killing us right now.”

In light of that, Mills said she thinks the study is “incredibly supportive of the police agencies.” Greiling said all agencies were “very cooperative — they wanted us to do this study.”

Mills stressed that the study was not an investigation, and that each chief was free to answer or not answer the battery of questions the League posed.

Towards the end of the year, the League’s sights will shift to a study of affordable housing in the area. Greiling said the League’s focus on issues that can affect anyone has broadened the group’s appeal.

“We’re thought of as old white women, but we’ve got men and women of color as well,” Greiling said. “I’m really proud we are doing things that don’t just interest old white ladies.”

Both Mills and Greiling encouraged the public to visit Roseville LWV’s new website at www.lwvrosevillearea.org. There, the police study can be viewed, along with video of the November police chief panel, as well as a schedule of upcoming League events.

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

 

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