There is a renewed urgency for passing police reform legislation following Sunday’s fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by a now-former Brooklyn Center police officer.
That was the focus of a Tuesday press conference by the United Black Legislative Caucus and People of Color and Indigenous Caucus.
The deadly escalation following the traffic stop leading to Wright’s death is why communities of color must maintain their insistence, said Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope).
“While our community is in pain, grieving the loss of yet another Black man in Minnesota, law enforcement groups and so many others across the aisle are playing politics,” he said in a statement. “We’ve held dozens of hearings over the course of the session that were met with resistance and dismissiveness from law enforcement groups and Republican members in both the Senate and the House.”
Frazier, Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) and Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center) identified four House legislative priorities they believe would improve accountability for law enforcement:
Each provision is in the omnibus public safety and criminal justice reform bill that is scheduled for action by the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday.
According to a Monday statement from the United Black Legislative Caucus: “We need accountability and we need it now. The Minnesota House is advancing much-needed solutions to identify bad officers and keep them off the streets, strengthen community oversight, and ban white supremacists from serving as officers. Daunte Wright should still be with us. His family deserves justice, and our community deserves changes to our laws that will ensure officers can be held accountable and trust can be built within our communities and those charged to protect and serve.”
Frazier is frustrated at the Senate’s lack of action on these and other DFL-sponsored bills. He said the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee has held more than 10 public hearings about police reform and accountability, while Senate Republicans have not held a single public hearing on the topic this year.
However, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) announced Tuesday the Senate would be holding fact-finding hearings and receive public input on police reform and accountability within two weeks.
[MORE: Watch the announcement]
He would not promise that specific House legislation would be heard in those meetings, because he said passing budget bills before the Legislature adjourns on May 17 is his top priority.
“One thing is clear — Daunte Wright should be alive. His death points to the reality that our state is fundamentally unjust for Black Minnesotans,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) said Monday. “Mr. Wright’s family and community are grappling with unimaginable trauma. We need answers, body cam footage, and protection and justice for Black lives.”