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Police reform proposals get lukewarm Senate response in conference committee

House Photography file photo
House Photography file photo

The House version of the omnibus judiciary and public safety policy and finance bill has more than two-dozen proposals on reforming police procedures, many developed in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Philando Castile and others during encounters with police.

The Senate bill contains no such reform provisions.

A potentially significant step to narrow that very wide gap was taken Thursday, when the House presented an offer to the conference committee on HF1030/SF970* to adopt a dozen House-sponsored police reform and accountability provisions.

Those proposed measures would:

  • establish “sign and release” warrants;
  • limit peace officers’ authority to stop or detain drivers solely for petty misdemeanor motor vehicle equipment violations, such as having expired license tabs or a broken turn signal;
  • modify the POST Board police misconduct database;
  • establish a law enforcement model policy on response to public assemblies;
  • prohibit law enforcement affiliation with white supremacy groups;
  • require chiefs of police to submit “duty to intercede” reports to the POST Board;
  • allow local units of government to establish law enforcement citizen oversight councils;
  • eliminate certain statutes of limitations for police officers committing a crime;
  • limit no-knock search warrants to cases involving first-degree murder, hostage taking, kidnapping, terrorism and human trafficking;
  • require 911 operators to refer calls involving mental health crises to mental health crisis teams when appropriate (Travis’ Law);
  • require law enforcement agencies to release body camera recordings of deadly force incidents to the deceased’s family and representatives within 48 hours of the incident; and
  • require the POST board to develop a model policy on the use of confidential informants by law enforcement (Matthew’s Law).

[MORE: View the House offer with original bill numbers]

But senators largely indicated those policy provisions would likely go nowhere.

Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), who sponsors the Senate bill, said several times he believes the omnibus bill should primarily be budget focused, with few policy items of any sort included.

That philosophy prompted a strong reply from Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), sponsor of the House bill.

“It’s the House’s position that the call for change is strong, and that that call is for action now,” he said.

Limmer made no commitment for a Senate counter-proposal, only that he would have a response “in a day or two.”

The Senate has the gavel Friday, and Limmer said the agenda would include testimony from Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and more budget discussions on funding his agency and the Department of Corrections.

In addition to those two departments, the omnibus bill also contains policy and funding provisions for Minnesota courts, civil legal services, Guardian ad Litem Board, Tax Court, Uniform Laws Commission, Board on Judicial Standards, Board of Public Defense and Human Rights Department.

[MORE: View the side-by-side comparisons]

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