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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Howard (DFL)

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Rep. Howard calls for reform to promote excellence in policing

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Recent ruling underscores need for Police Officer Task Force

St. Paul, MN – With the recent ruling that a former Minneapolis police officer can be reinstated after he was fired for kicking and severely injuring a man that was handcuffed, Rep. Howard (DFL – Richfield) renewed his call for reform to promote excellence in policing. This ruling is the latest example of an officer who was fired for a serious breach of the public trust being reinstated. Howard is calling for passage of legislation he authored last session to create a Peace Officer Excellence Task Force to bring a diverse group of stakeholders together to study this issue and provide recommendations to the Legislature to repair a broken system.

“Police officers that seriously betray the public trust should face serious consequences, but current systems in place reveal a broken process that is fracturing the trust that Minnesotans have in law enforcement,” said Howard. “The vast majority of police officers serve our communities with dignity and respect, and many departments are taking important steps to strengthen trust with their community. The excellent work of Minnesota’s public safety officers is threatened by a broken system, and it’s necessary that we all come together to make changes.”

Rep. Howard introduced the task force legislation in response to an incident in which a Richfield police officer was reinstated by an arbitrator after being fired for striking a Somali youth and then failing to report it. That case was taken to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which stated “No doubt many observers would find this officer’s actions disturbing,” but found the state statutes and city contracts provided no alternative remedy but to uphold the decision of the arbitrator. 

“The Supreme Court ruling makes clear that absent reform, our current system will continue to produce similar results, where the exemplary work of the vast majority of our officers are tarnished by the small number of officers who break the public trust and are not held accountable,” said Howard. “Preserving the status quo is not an option that we should accept.”

The Minnesota House passed the Peace Officer Excellence Task Force last session as part of the omnibus Public Safety bill, but it was not supported by the Minnesota Senate in conference committee. 

More information on Rep. Howard’s bill, HF 2460, can be found here.