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Committee hears how reform legislation has begun to affect police training

The Legislature responded to the Memorial Day death of George Floyd under the knee of a former Minneapolis police officer by passing police reform legislation in the July 2020 special session.

The bill, SSHF1, signed into law by the governor, mandates several changes in police officer training and conduct.

How the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board has begun to implement some of those reform measures was the focus of a presentation by the POST Board at the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee Thursday.

The POST Board regulates education, selection, licensing, and training standards for the state’s more than 11,800 peace officers

Erik Misselt, executive director of the POST Board, said that, as mandated by the legislation, the board has been working to:

  • adopt a comprehensive use of force model policy to be implemented by every law enforcement agency;
  • 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
  • create (with a $4.5 million allocation) a centralized database of officer misconduct complaints.

Misselt noted that in December 2020, the POST Board signed a contract for development of the officer misconduct database with a software company with extensive experience building similar databases at the municipal level.

Misselt said he expects the complaint reporting database to be up and running by July 1, 2021, in time to meet the deadline when state agencies are required by the reform legislation to begin reporting data in real time.


Outing the ‘bad apples’

Just as George Floyd’s death prompted the Legislature to enact police reform legislation, other recent public events may also lead to action.

Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope) said reports of law enforcement officers participating in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has made him consider developing legislation regarding white supremacists infiltrating police departments, and he asked whether the POST Board has ever investigated complaints about this.

“To my knowledge, we have not received complaints,” said Kelly McCarthy, Mendota Heights chief of police and chair of the POST Board. “Nor have we revoked the license of any peace officer in Minnesota for being a member of a group that is deemed a white supremacist group.”

McCarthy noted that because being a member of a white supremacist group is not against the law, any such complaints wouldn’t necessarily reach the POST Board. But McCarthy added that individual law enforcement agencies in the state do have policies regarding what types of groups their officers can and cannot be members of.

However, McCarthy acknowledged that white supremacy is a problem within law enforcement.

“Any problem that exists in society exists in the police officer ranks, because we are members of society,” McCarthy said.

Frazier replied that he hopes the POST Board would develop a code of conduct to address this and similar issues.


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