MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new state panel is working to stop deadly encounters with police.

They’ve gone across Minnesota, learning where officer-involved shootings happen — and what fuels them.

The group has heard from experts, researchers and the family members of victims of officer-involved shootings.

The first meeting of this group of half community members and half people in the justice system got off to a rocky start.

“We’ve had some meetings that were lively, high spirited even costic but John and I agreed that that was a good thing it helped set a tone of seriousness,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

For the past two meetings the group listened to mental health experts, as well as professionals who work with people with autism.

So far, they’re not ready to release findings, but believe they are making progress.

“When we want to reduce deadly force encounters with police this means we are protecting police lives too it means making sure they go home to their families and citizens go home,” Ellison said.

Attorney General Ellison says 50% of officer-involved shootings involve someone who is in crisis.

Both he and Harrington believe training and officer wellness are at the top of the list of things that need to be changed.

“We need to change our learning objectives we need to change our training for officers so that they understand that when they have an autistic child who is in crisis it is not the same as somebody thinking about attacking them,” said John Harrington, the Department of Public Safety’s commissioner.

This group has also learned where most of these shootings take place.

“60% of officer involved shootings happen in greater Minnesota so part of this conversation needs to happen in greater Minnesota,” Harrington said.

Now the group is shifting gears and wanting input from you.

“Tonight it’s all about hearing from the public. It’s all about hearing community voices and helping us come up with the idea of how can we make this better,” Harrington said.

Both Ellison and Harrington say no other state in the country has a working committee studying police involved deadly force encounters.

The next meetings will be held in Bemidji and Worthington. They hope to have recommendations from the committee by the end of February.

Reg Chapman

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