On August 11, the MSBA and 10 affinity bar co-sponsors presented After Castile: A Forum on Race and Criminal Justice.1 The event, which drew 188 in-person attendees and another 200+ viewers at nine remote locations around the state, featured a panel discussion moderated by Judge Peter Reyes; panelists included Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, ACLU Legal Director Teresa Nelson, and Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell.
Afterward Bryan Browning—the president of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association and a member of the MSBA Council as well as a co-chair of the MSBA Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council—shared these recollections of the event with us:
I think the MSBA’s After Castile Forum provided an important framework for a continuing discussion on race, bias, and the criminal justice system. It was enlightening to hear multiple viewpoints provided in a respectful and reasoned tone. Far too often critical discussions like these devolve into shouting matches. But Judge Peter M. Reyes deftly provided guidance and moderation to the carefully selected panel. His difficult questions and insightful commentary helped lead the discussion through several thorny issues, including the role of race in policing activities, law enforcement’s burgeoning use of technology, and actions the state, local law enforcement, and the public can take to address the issue.
The responses from the panelists were thought-provoking and garnered a number of visible reactions from those in attendance. In short, the substantive discussion crystallized the issues surrounding racial profiling and implicit bias present in law enforcement. Nekima Levy-Pounds provided penetrating commentary on the reality of racial disparities in policing practices and the criminal justice system. Kevin Lindsey directed the conversation toward a focus on what the state and local governments have done, and can do, to continue educating the citizenry on this issue.
Similarly, ACLU Legal Director Teresa Nelson opined on the tools, including an ACLU video broadcast mobile phone app, that can be used to document and catalog interactions between citizens and law enforcement, with the goal of bringing more awareness to improper policing activities. Finally, Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell offered important insight into the protocols, operations, and resource realities facing local law enforcement.
While the panelists did not all agree on one another’s specific commentary, there was an overarching understanding that there is an issue, that it is real, and that it needs to be addressed. The agreement that a problem exists is the first step in identifying possible solutions to the issue of race and bias in the criminal justice system. I look forward to MSBA’s continuing leadership and programming.”