ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Nothing has ignited more heated protest and public debate in recent years than officer-involved shootings.

But while high profile cases like Jamar Clark, Philando Castile and Justine Rusczyk-Damond captured major news coverage, Minnesota has seen an alarming 101 officer-involved shootings since 2014.

The question asked by state Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington is, “how do we as a state reduce deadly force encounters between community members and the police?”

Commissioner Harrington says that’s the goal of a newly formed 16-member working group. A diverse collection of community activists, law enforcement and public servants who will search for substantive change.

“We’re going to be looking at everything, from top to bottom, state and local policy changes, possibly changes to police procedures, legislation initiatives, training and technology,” Harrington added.

The working group will be chaired by Harrington and Attorney General Keith Ellison. It will hold several public hearings to gather ideas on how best to investigate, respond and most importantly, reduce the need for deadly force.

Once all three public hearings on August 17, September 28 and October 17 are completed and ideas gathered, the panel will submit a list of recommendations to both state lawmakers and law enforcement.

Clarence Castile’s nephew, Philando, was killed by a St. Anthony police officer in 2016 during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. Castile says the panel’s push for change will ultimately save lives.

“Community and cops working together rebuilding trust and legitimacy, that’s what we have to do and I’m honored to be a part of this,” explains Clarence Castile.

Bill Hudson

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