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Panel approves bill proposing ‘innovative solutions’ to improve public safety

A multi-faceted approach to innovating public safety, focusing on increasing transparency and promoting more trust between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve is the emphasis of a bill moving through the legislative process.

It comes in the form of a “public safety innovation package” being put forth by Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope).

The House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee approved HF855, as amended, via a split-voice vote Tuesday and sent it to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

An 18-member public safety innovation board is called for in the Office of Justice Programs within the Department of Public Safety. Funded at $9.7 million in the 2024-25 biennium, it would be charged with monitoring trends and research on crime; making recommendations on crime-prevention strategies based on data-driven research; and awarding grants to community-based crime-prevention organizations.

The bill would also appropriate $15 million in fiscal year 2024 for local law enforcement agencies to purchase body cameras for police officers and to store video recordings.

If local agencies accept the money, they would have to abide by strict rules prohibiting altering, erasing, or destroying video footage, plus agree to release unredacted video to the family of someone killed by a police officer no later than five business days after the death.

Frazier said being transparent with such body camera video can “bring the temperature down” after an officer uses deadly force against a member of a community.

Other steps to build trust between law enforcement and a community would be achieved by permitting local governments to establish civilian oversight councils with the power to conduct investigations into alleged police misconduct and to impose discipline on officers.

The bill would also appropriate $2.7 million in the 2024-25 biennium for the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to hire investigators and additional staff to perform compliance reviews and investigate alleged police officer code of conduct violations.

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