Roseville chief discusses police policy at town hall meeting


Roseville police Chief Rick Mathwig took questions from residents Oct. 2 at the Roseville Skating Center during a town hall-style Imagine Roseville community discussion. Mike Munzenrider/photo

Roseville police Chief Rick Mathwig answered questions from the public Oct. 2 at the Roseville Skating Center, discussing immigration issues, his department’s hiring policies and what’s changed since the police killing of Philando Castile.

Roseville Lt. Erika Scheider and Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier joined Mathwig for what was the fourth Imagine Roseville discussion, a town hall-style meeting with the police department.

The discussion series began a year ago, convened by Roseville city officials to give residents an opportunity to discuss their feelings following the death of Castile, a 32-year-old African-American man who was shot and killed by a police officer in July, 2016, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

Some 200 people showed up to the first event, and since, the discussions have ranged from race and policing, to the role of local police in immigration enforcement, and back to the variety of topics that were discussed Oct. 2.

Mathwig gave perhaps his most personal answer when it came to what had changed since Castile was killed. 

He said he has worked in law enforcement for the majority of his life and looked at policing issues from an analytical point of view. It wasn’t until residents discussed their feelings about Castile’s death at the first Imagine Roseville meeting in October, 2016, that he realized how visceral the shooting was to residents.

“I didn’t realize how close to home that was until the meeting,” Mathwig said, referencing the fears expressed by parents of black or mixed-race kids when it comes to driving — the potential dangers lurking in every traffic stop — and their children’s other interactions with the police.

Mathwig, the father of two boys, said the discussion gave him a new perspective. He “never worried about [his son] not making his 30th birthday,” as some parents do, and said he took heed of people looking at the shooting “with their heart.”

 

Immigration

One attendee asked Mathwig if the Roseville Police Department had had any recent interactions with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The topic — local involvement in immigration enforcement — has been on the minds of many community members as of late.

On Aug. 28, the city council passed a resolution adding more force to the police department’s policy of not inquiring about an individual’s immigration status, since it’s the province of the federal government to enforce immigration laws. 

The action of the council was informed by resident feedback collected at back-to-back Imagine Roseville events in May. Some residents had hoped the council would have done more, such as an ordinance codifying the policy.

Mathwig said his department has neither coordinated with ICE nor provided backup, or scene safety, should the agency be operating in Roseville. He offered two incidents in the past decade or so when the department and the agency interacted; one instance involved thousands of pirated DVDs smuggled through customs and found in the city.

People arrested by Roseville police can end up at the Ramsey County Jail, and Serier is in charge of the facility. The sheriff’s office also patrols some of Roseville’s neighbors, including Arden Hills, Shoreview and Little Canada, and is all but assured to begin patrolling Falcon Heights come the new year.

Serier said his department does not work directly with ICE — “Our job is state law” — though the jail can serve as a pass-through point for people who have an ICE case status.

The Ramsey County Jail is the closest detention center to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and contracts with the U.S. Marshals Service, which moves people through the jail on the way to the airport, Serier said. That contract does include ICE detentions.

Serier also said some people in his jail who are there for a state crime may also have an ICE case status. Asked if his sheriff’s deputies inquired about immigration status, Serier said, “We do not ask about citizenship.”

 

Hiring practices and other questions

Another questioner, perhaps leaning on an Oct. 1 Star Tribune story headlined “Convicted, but still policing,” asked if the Roseville Police Department employs any officers convicted of violent crimes.

“No,” said Scheider, explaining she’s been involved in the department’s employment background checks. “We do not take people if there’s any question about their background or their integrity.”

Mathwig said the department had passed over candidates who simply had too many calls for police service to their homes — no convictions or even allegations of spousal abuse or other violent acts needed.

Asked what keeps them up at night, Mathwig said it was protecting the integrity and reputation of the Roseville Police Department. For Scheider, who said she is a mother of three, it was calls for police service that involve young children in difficult situations.

“You hate to see small kids not have a chance,” she said.

Mathwig was asked what percentage of Roseville officers actually live in the city, and out of a police force of 48 people, he said just two or three live in Roseville.

“You want the best cop,” he said, explaining that some sort of residency requirement could potentially hurt the quality of the police force.

 

New discussions

Resident Huda Yusuf, who Mathwig referenced as one of the parents who helped him better understand the anxieties brought to bear by Castile’s death, said the Oct. 2 Imagine Roseville discussion was the best yet.

She complimented Mathwig specifically, saying he’s appeared to learn from the discussions and is listening to the community.

It’s unclear when the next discussion will be held. City Manager Pat Trudgeon said the next date could be scheduled in the new year, and the topic could be something “bigger than the city,” such as the achievement gap or mass incarceration.

A recording of this latest Imagine Roseville discussion can be viewed at www.ctv15.org.

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813



 

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