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Feds to review St. Anthony Police Department following Castile shooting

ST. ANTHONY, Minn. -- Weeks after criminal charges were filed against a St. Anthony police officer for the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, the federal Department of Justice has announced that it will conduct a review of the officer's entire d...

ST. ANTHONY, Minn. -- Weeks after criminal charges were filed against a St. Anthony police officer for the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, the federal Department of Justice has announced that it will conduct a review of the officer’s entire department.

On Wednesday, the office of U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger announced that federal authorities would be conducting a “comprehensive review” of the St. Anthony police department, with additional details to come during a press conference Thursday.

The office conducting the review would not be Luger’s but rather the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, based in Washington, D.C.

In cases where the federal government investigates a death like Castile’s, it often uses the FBI to look into possible violations of one of two federal laws, commonly know as the “color of law” statute and the “pattern or practice” statute.

While the first statute is a criminal investigation into a single officer, the “pattern or practice” statute is an investigation into an entire police department. Created in the wake of the 1991 Rodney King case in Los Angeles, it was designed to address a department’s overall track record and was used twice as often under the first five years of President Barack Obama’s administration as the previous five under President George W. Bush - 23 times to date.

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Still, it remains unclear whether the feds will conduct an investigation under the “pattern or practice” statute for the Castile case. A press conference will be held Thursday to offer more information.

While a civil matter, rather than a criminal one, a “pattern or practice” investigation demands federal court oversight and substantial departmental reforms. The end result that authorities push for is called a “consent decree,” where the Justice Department and the city agree on how to make fixes and changes are monitored by a federal judge, or rather, someone appointed by them.

On July 6, Castile, 32, was shot and killed by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights. His fiancee, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the immediate aftermath on Facebook.

Along with Gov. Mark Dayton, Rep. Betty McCollum, Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Keith Ellison also have called for a federal investigation.

The latest federal announcement comes nearly a month after Ramsey County Attorney John Choi filed a felony manslaughter charge against Yanez. Choi’s move was regarded as unprecedented in Minnesota when Choi announced the charges on Nov. 16. Yanez’ attorneys have indicated he plans to plead not guilty to the charge.

“I would submit that no reasonable officer knowing, seeing or hearing what officer Yanez did would have used deadly force,” Choi said.

Data released by St. Anthony weeks ago showed that, of the department’s 994 arrests made through early July this year, 47 percent of the suspects were black, compared with 46 percent who were white. Ten arrests did not include race data.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, the three cities the department patrols - St. Anthony, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights - are cumulatively 7 percent black.

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