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House, Senate agree to compromise police reform package

A bouquet from an earlier vigil in memory of Minnesotans killed by police remained on the security fence around the State Capitol last month as, inside, House members debated a package of police reform bills. Photo by Andrew VonBank
A bouquet from an earlier vigil in memory of Minnesotans killed by police remained on the security fence around the State Capitol last month as, inside, House members debated a package of police reform bills. Photo by Andrew VonBank

Since the Memorial Day death of George Floyd under the knee of a former Minneapolis police officer, calls have grown louder for police reforms and accountability changes.

After more than a month of work, the House and Senate finally reached agreement on some changes.

Sponsored by Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), SSHF1, as amended with a delete-all amendment and others, the bill would, in part, ban chokeholds in all but extreme circumstances, outlaw warrior training that encourages aggressive conduct and require an officer to intervene when another officer is using excessive force.

Passed 102-29 by the House late Monday night, the Senate passed it 60-7 about two hours later. The bill now goes to Gov. Tim Walz for action.

“This is not the bill I wanted. We had a much more robust bill we passed out of here a few weeks ago,” Mariani said. “But I can say in full confidence that this is a good bill. It creates a modern accountability framework of laws that will help to end the type of police brutality that killed George Floyd.”

“The bill we’ve agreed on this special session is based on common-sense reforms that Minnesotans, police officers, and community leaders can support,” Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) said in a statement. He and Mariani chair the respective public safety committees.

Mental health, POST Board training

The legislation aims to provide better training for mental health and crisis intervention through the establishment of a Critical Incident Stress Management Team. It would provide assistance to emergency service providers coping with stress and potential psychological trauma resulting from a critical incident or emotional event. Services could include consultation, risk assessment, education and intervention. Peace officers would also get more training for dealing with people in crisis and defusing volatile situations.

The Peace Officers Standards and Training Board regulates education, selection, licensing and training standards for the state’s more than 10,500 peace officers.

House Floor debate on compromise police reform package, SSHF1 7/20/20

Changes in the bill would create a 15-member advisory council “to assist the board in maintaining policies and regulating peace officers in a manner that ensures the protection of civil and human rights. The council shall provide for citizen involvement in policing policies, regulations, and supervision. The council shall advance policies and reforms that promote positive interactions between peace officers and the community.”

“This is an important step to ensure that there is strong, regular community presence in the POST Board itself,” Mariani said.

Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge) said he is concerned the board could be loaded with people representing groups in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. They could enact changes, he said, that would lead to things being done “the metro way, which doesn’t work in Greater Minnesota.”

Additionally, the bill would:

  • expand POST Board membership from 15 members to 17 by appointing additional community members;
  • require the board to adopt a comprehensive use of force model policy to be implemented by every law enforcement agency;
  • require the board to consult with the Human Services Department and other mental health stakeholders to create a list of approved training courses related to responding to mental health crisis and require officers to complete a minimum of six hours of training; and
  • require the board to create (with a $4.5 million allocation) a centralized database of officer misconduct complaints.

The bill has a $7.26 million General Fund cost in fiscal year 2021. [View the spreadsheet]

Nearly $3.37 million in fiscal year 2021 would be appropriated to establish an independent Use of Force Investigations Unit in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to conduct officer-involved death investigations, investigate conflict of interest cases involving peace officers and investigate criminal sexual conduct cases involving peace officers. This unit would sunset in four years.

Other provisions in the bill include:

  • a chief law enforcement officer of an agency would need to submit a monthly report to the BCA with information related to each use of force incident that resulted in serious bodily harm or death;
  • establishing an arbitrator selection procedure to determine arbitrators to be used in peace officer grievance cases;
  • cities and counties could offer extra incentives for officers to be residents of the communities they patrol;
  • require autism awareness training for officers;
  • extend the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force by six months to June 30, 2021; and
  • extend until 2024 current training dollars ($6 million per year) that support and strengthen law enforcement training and implement best practices.

An amendment unsuccessfully offered by Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) would have required the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court to appoint a 10-member Civil Unrest Investigatory Commission. Nash said it would allow Minnesotans to “get answers relative to the civil unrest that happened as a result of the death of George Floyd. … They will be able to find out the chronology of what happened, when it happened, decisions that were made by the various entities that were involved.”

It was voted down largely along party lines.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) noted this provision was in the so-called Promise Act that would have provided help to businesses, people and nonprofits harmed by civil unrest. The act was passed 74-53 by the House during the June special session, but did not pass the Senate.

“To attach it to this bill and not do anything for those people who were harmed is irresponsible,” he said.

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