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MN police shootings prompt Dayton to launch council to improve law enforcement-community relations

ST. PAUL--The shooting deaths of two young black men at the hands of Twin Cities police officers has prompted Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to establish a council looking into how to improve law enforcement-community relations.

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Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson tells repoters on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, that a Minnesota council he will help lead will look into how law enforcement officers and community members can better trust each other. Gov. Mark Dayhton is in the background.(Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL-The shooting deaths of two young black men at the hands of Twin Cities police officers has prompted Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to establish a council looking into how to improve law enforcement-community relations.

Dayton signed an executive order establishing the 32-member council on Wednesday giving it a deadline of next February to produce recommendations that legislators could consider.

Polls show widespread respect for law enforcement officers, Dayton said, yet "at the same time, we have had two serious incidents involving fatalities of African-American men in the last year."

Dayton said American society is "more violence prone than any time in my lifetime" and he set up the council deal with an aspect of that violence. "We need to realize that for some people in some communities, there are serious issues of distrust toward law enforcement."

Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson, co-chairman of the council, said there will be no one-size-fits-all solution.

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"I believe that all policing is done at the neighborhood level..." Johnson said. "What works in one neighborhood may not work in another neighborhood. Having said that, I don't think this stuff is all that complicated."

Johnson said that good policing is about "building relationships to keep our neighborhoods safe."

Although Johnson said his northern Minnesota region is "pretty homogenous," communities like his across Minnesota are becoming more racially diverse. Some greater Minnesota communities have large non-white populations.

Hennepin County District Judge Pamela Alexander said the council will look at things beyond law enforcement. She said the rest of the justice system will be examined, too.

"I don't think we can take this up on a vacuum," she said.

Dayton said the council will include a family member of each of the two men shot and killed by police.

Jamar Clark was shot in Minneapolis nearly a year ago. Philando Castile died earlier this year when shot by a St. Anthony officer, while patrolling in Falcon Heights.

Dayton put his arm around Castile's mother, Valerie, as they left the announcement and walked to his office. She did not talk to reporters.

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