Change, Like a Season, Comes Fast

In 2016, 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer while driving through the city of Falcon Heights, and recently the city has begun to take the necessary steps to prevent this tragedy again. However, instead of implementing only new rules and regulations on the officers, they are going a step further: they are ending their contract.

Falcon Heights, Minnesota is a suburb of St. Paul, and thus does not have their own police department. Instead, they hold a contract with another city, St. Anthony, whose police have worked to protect and serve both cities for around 20 years. They have a rich, long-lasting relationship that has withstood the change of time, but now that relationship has come to an end. The city is “considering its options”, and is planning to cut ties with St. Anthony and choose a new source of officers. This is all in response to the death of Philando Castile, when the residents of Falcon Heights were outraged by the latency of responses to the shooting and punishment of the officer.

Another key issue that arose was payment due to the St. Anthony Police Department for their services in the area. Their recent surprise change to the contract, a resolution the Falcon Heights City Council was unprepared for, was for Falcon Heights to “assume liability for policing its borders”, meaning that the taxpayers of that city would pay for the use of police from another city, including any problems or fines that may arise (manpower, weapons, and unlawful deaths). What made this a big deal was not only the timing, but also that St. Anthony holds contracts with other areas, but does not have the same resolution beholden to them as well. It is all in response to the shooting. Those in charge are upset about this for many reasons, including that Falcon Heights has no control over the hiring or training of officers or even control over discipline. The change was unwarranted, and grossly unfair.

Now, what did Philando Castile do? He was pulled over, warned an officer that he was armed and had a license to carry, and while proceeding to reach into his glove box to retrieve the required documents was shot several times by the police officer. In a time where police and their policies of community policing and arrests are under heavy scrutiny, this incredibly fast and violent reaction was not the best route to go. This kind of behavior, this kind of problem, is one of many being faced across our nation and helping to besmirch the value we all once held for law enforcement. However, Falcon Heights is different from other places because they can take the one drastic step others cannot: They can cut off the offending police department and look elsewhere for safety and assistance.

This kind of reaction is a powerful gut-check to not only local law enforcement in this area, but across the country. It shows that the police will be held accountable for their actions, and though many of the City Council are claiming it is not due to abilities of St. Anthony’s officers, it is very obvious to be either the main or at least contributing reason. It is a warning that citizens of communities will no longer stand by and allow these kinds of acts be performed in their neighborhoods, especially by officers from outside their city. They won’t protest or riot in their homes to get this change done, however, because that would only hurt them more. Instead, they go to those in power, in charge, and convince them to change.

Though they have not gotten severed their connection to St. Anthony’s police, the council has plans to “send letters to several area police departments to gauge their interest”, or test the waters of other police, in protecting and serving the people of Falcon Heights. These other departments will have the weight of the transgressions of St. Anthony to deal with, and will grow stronger from it. They will be wary, they will be wise, and they will be more efficient.

Having this kind of power without destroying a city in demonstrations of anger shows the true power of the people. It brings back the words “who watches the watchers”, and issues warning to the police. Civilians are showing themselves that through peaceful means their needs for change and restitution can be made possible, even if not directly stated for appearances’ sake. Who watches the watchers? The people do.

–Austin Neal

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4 thoughts on “Change, Like a Season, Comes Fast

  1. Don’t you think as a police station you would have unforeseen charges accounted for? Did this police station really not put into account a unexpected death of a civilian? This police station to me seems to have lack of knowledge and is possibly leaving this lack of experience on their officers. How are you going to charge a city for an unfortunate event that your police officers committed? What Falcon Heights is doing is amazing and is truly setting a tone to handle corrupt police officers. What Castile did was correct in my eyes due to him warning the officer multiple times and trying to present the firearm so the officer would know he was in safe conditions. Being able to rise up and tell the officers guarding you that we no longer feel safe has to make the officers feel as if they are doing something wrong and will hopefully change their perspectives.

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  2. Austin-first I think your title is clever the simile between the change of seasons and the change of a police force is a good picture to paint to ensure your readers understands the connection. I to be honest never knew you could contract police units. I am from MA and we do not have the whole county thing that is popular here south of the Mason Dixon line so every town jurisdiction is required to have their own town police force. So, the idea that a town can hire or rearrange a new police force is interesting to me and I found the concept intriguing to learn about. I think it is slightly extreme because there should be direction taken in the St. Anthony police force to reform their police officers and develop better training mechanisms so events like the Philando Castile do not happen again. However, I like the freedom Falcon Heights must make their own change to best fit their communities needs and safety measures. I like your overall tone that Falcon Heights has yet to server their ties with St. Anthony but they are threatening because of their horrible actions. This demonstrates that Falcon Heights wants to make it known what St. Anthony’s did in hopes that the attention enough will be cause for reform and police force change. Very eye opening blog post!

    -Katie Whitney

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  3. Thanks for bringing the issue of contract police in some municipalities. It does provide an alternative to other reform mechanisms.

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  4. Austin,
    You make several great points in your article relating to some of the nuances of local and state governments in that particular area. First of all, it is always good to go back to the original source. It states that the entire point of the move was to simply create a study to gauge departments in the area about being contracted to police Falcon Heights. It isn’t a move to completely cut ties with the current police department. It comes nowhere close to that. To say that this move is a warning to all police departments across the nation is a little bit of an overstatement. Also, I believe that there are many more variables present in this situation that to simply blame it on a single shooting that was an isolated incident. There is a possibility that the current contract is too expensive for Falcon Heights. From a political standpoint, someone might be wanting to get their name out there so they try to do some work on a very high profile and controversial case. To cut ties with a police department because of one officer involved shooting, regardless if it was justified, is a complete overreaction if it were that simple. To label an entire department for the actions of a lone officer is not doing any good for the community. I personally believe that the only reason that this case is so popular is because Castile’s significant other broadcasted his death to the world on Facebook live and the news media ate it up because there was no way they could miss out on such an opportunity to gain viewers. Am I the only person that things her reaction to seeing her significant other being shot to death was completely strange? Instead of trying to stop the bleeding, or at the very least crying, she pulls out her phone and records it all. It does not make sense to me.

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