A Minnesota peace officer training board has voted down a proposal to name a $12 million police training fund after Philando Castile, a black man killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in 2016.
The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training voted Thursday morning to retain the original name of the fund, the Peace Officer Training Assistance Fund. The fund, approved by the state legislature earlier this year, aims to improve community-police relations by emphasizing de-escalation, addressing implicit bias and promoting diversity.
The board made the decision by a vote of 8-2, with one abstention.
Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, whom Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) appointed to the POST board, voted to name the fund after his nephew. Prior to the vote, he compared the possibility to an “olive branch that’s been extended by law enforcement and government saying we want to try to start to rebuild.”
“Of course you wouldn’t want to name it after Philando because, every time you get out of your car, Philando Castile’s name is going to play in your head,” Castile’s friend John Thompson told the board.
Dayton proposed in early July to name the fund in Castile’s honor ― a suggestion Castile’s family supported but that law enforcement groups opposed, arguing that it was a “tone-deaf” insult to the state’s police officers. Dayton has stated that he stands by his recommendation after the POST vote.
Lt. Bob Kroll, who is president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis and who testified before the board, suggested that the governor’s call to name the fund after Castile may have been a political move.
“We looked at it as irresponsible statements by Governor Dayton. The shooting happened and he came out and condemned the officer immediately. And that’s in the interest of politics and gaining votes,” Kroll told HuffPost. “It had nothing to do with the reality of the situation. Officer [Jeronimo] Yanez was tried and found not guilty by a jury. So the justice system was followed. And this is just the governor trying to garner votes for the Democratic party.”
Former St. Anthony police officer Yanez pulled Castile over for a broken taillight and shot him while Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter were in the car. Yanez testified that he thought Castile was drawing a gun and that he feared for his life, while Reynolds argued that Castile posed no threat. Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter in June.
Kroll opposed the move to name the fund in Castile’s honor, noting the number of fallen police officers whom the fund could have honored.
“My position was we’ve had 243 officers in the state of Minnesota that have been killed in the line of duty, and we’ve never named a bill after them,” Kroll told HuffPost. “Why would we name it after a person that, in the end, was shot by police and the shooting was ruled to be justifiable?”
Castile’s family expressed disappointment in the decision.
“It’s just a pitiful shame that they voted against it when the governor recommended it,” Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, told the Pioneer Press after the vote.
In explaining the POST board’s decision, both Kroll and Nate Gove, the board’s executive director (who was not one of the voting members), emphasized that the board has never voted to name such a fund after an individual person.
Although Castile’s mother told the Pioneer Press that the decision was “absolutely” a step back for community-police relations, Gove expressed optimism about the effects of the new training fund.
“My hope moving forward is that for those whose trust has been strained, law enforcement and the public can come together. I believe this additional funding and new mandatory training is a step in that direction.”