Valerie Castile and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi spoke about the tool kit during a recent online video conference with about 70 law enforcement agencies and other groups from around the country.
The kit gives prosecutors and police ways to assess how prepared they are for police shootings, and see how they can be handled better, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Among other things, the kit says a prosecutor should be immediately assigned to a police shooting and family members should be contacted within 24 hours.
“I hope you guys take time out to read it and absorb the information and just think about it and say, ‘You know what? This is doable work,'” Castile said, adding: “It’s not complicated at all because some of the information in the tool kit you are already doing and if you’re not, ask yourself, ‘Why am I not doing what should be done?'”
The tool kit also promotes connection to communities and advises agencies to collect data on racial disparities in their criminal justice system. It also says a prosecutor’s office should try to complete its investigation into whether charges are warranted within four to six months and release its decision and full report to the public no more than two weeks later.
If charges aren’t filed, prosecutors should explain why to affected family members.
Philando Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016, after he told then-St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez that he had a gun. Authorities later discovered Castile had a permit for the firearm. Choi’s office charged Yanez with manslaughter, but he was acquitted.
The case got widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her young daughter, began livestreaming the shooting’s aftermath on Facebook.
After the shooting, the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution at John Jay College and prosecutors, police chiefs and family members of shooting victims participated in a yearlong discussion on police shootings. Valerie Castile and Choi were among the participants, along with Philando Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile.
During the video conference, Choi said being involved in the group helped him better understand the perspective of families who are waiting to see how the criminal justice system will handle a loved one’s death.
Choi said he knows it won’t make sense for every jurisdiction to adopt all the recommendations. But he’s hoping the tool kit will encourage police and prosecutors to examine what they’re doing and engage more with their communities.
“How arrogant if we thought we knew all the answers and we didn’t need to listen to our community,” Choi said. “I would say to government officials across the country, when we are thinking about our work, we have to recognize it’s not ours, it’s the people’s. … Nothing will really change unless we do it together.”