By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The first hearing of a working group on deadly force encounters with police got off to a rocky start today. It was the first meeting of this 16-member panel.

They have been tasked to get feedback through witness testimony and public comment about police encounters.

Members of the public who feel as if their voices are not being heard showed up to this morning’s meeting, demanding that someone listen to them. The meeting was scheduled to run all day.

But about 50 protesters who wanted their voices and their concerns heard had other plans.

“We are here to hear people– to hear all the voices. The point has been made,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.  “Look, the scroll is enormous. If there are folks who want to share their views and help to inform the work that we are doing, we want to receive it. That’s why we’ve been going.”

Carrying a scroll with the names of victims of officer involved shootings, protesters shut down the meeting before it got started.

“Two-hundred-and-eighteen people killed since 2000,” one protester said. “Eleven a year. While you talk in this committee for the next year, 11 more people will be killed.”

These protesters say it’s an insult to the families that have lost loved ones to not be included on the panel.

“I just want the answer as to why you didn’t invite the families,” said Kimberly Handy Jones.

Kimberly Handy Jones’ son Cordell died after an encounter with St. Paul police. She and others believe there should be better representation from the community on the panel.

“How do you have a work group that has no one on it from the mental health and disability communities? How do you have a work group that has no Hispanics? How do you have a work group that has no police accountability activists?” asked Michelle Gross.

The disruption lasted about 90 minutes. Panel co-chair Ellison then went into the hallway to speak with the protesters. He says the panel needs to hear their concerns.

Members of the panel did reconvene. They heard from prosecutors and the mother of Philando Castile about their perspective on this issue.

The next scheduled meeting for this panel is set for September 28.


Reg Chapman