ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, July 23, signed into law the most substantial set of policing law reforms that Minnesota has seen in years following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The package of proposals outlaws chokeholds, like the one that killed Floyd, bans warrior-style training, requires more officer training in de-escalation, crisis intervention and mental health and puts in place mechanisms to investigate police-involved deaths and sexual assaults.
Supporters of the legislation on Thursday said it was a significant step in ensuring the safety of people of color and Indigenous Minnesotans and they committed to pushing forward with additional changes. But family members of those killed by police in Minnesota said the law didn't go far enough.
The legislation underwent weeks of vetting following Floyd's May 25 death and family members of people killed by police, advocacy groups and lawmakers of color helped push the package through the Legislature earlier this week.
“When George Floyd died, the grief and anger in that moment felt unbearable so the legislators got to work,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said. “The bill that the governor signed today is not everything that needs to and should be done. Our commitment to the people, the families and communities affected by police violence does not start or end here today, this is a first step.”
Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said the package "leaps and bounds" beyond what other states have done to improve accountability among police officers and reduce instances of deadly force. And law enforcement groups said they supported the measures, despite having resisted the changes early on.
"We got a punch in the face and we deserved it," said Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie, speaking on behalf of the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association. "We're ready to make those reforms that the people have made into law and we're at the table ... we want to make sure we're doing what the people want."
But immediately after the package passed through the Statehouse, advocates voiced their frustration about pieces that were left out.
“Not only was the legislation disappointing but it included harmful elements such as additional funding for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to continue their practice of poor quality investigations that cover up police deadly force incidents,” Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said in a news release.
Lawmakers, law enforcement officers and advocacy groups said they were committed to returning to the Legislature to advance another set of reforms.
"This is the beginning of the work that we set out to do, it is not the end," Rep. Rena Moran, D-St. Paul, said. "I look forward to the opportunity and the time to bring in those law enforcement organizations in a room with those family members so that we can work on a process that gives them a voice."
As the proposals become law in Minnesota, here's a deeper look at what they do:
- Beginning immediately, chokeholds, restraints tying limbs together behind a person's back and warrior-style training will be banned in Minnesota.
- Law enforcement agencies will be required to set up guidelines for de-escalation and intervening in excessive force situations, with and without deadly use of firearms. The law states that officers have a "duty to intercede and report" should a fellow officer be using excessive force.
- The state will set up an independent Use of Force Investigations Unit within the Bureau of Criminal of Apprehension to investigate all officer-involved deaths in the state, plus criminal sexual assault allegations made against officers. The law also establishes an Officer-Involved Death Review Board within the Department of Safety, "responsible for identifying the root causes of the death and making recommendations for reforms to reduce the number of future officer-involved deaths."
- The governor will appoint a pool of arbitrators that can review grievances and review plans to discipline, discharge and terminate officers if needed.
- The law adds to the state's Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board four citizen members and establishes a Police-Community Relations Council. The 15-member council including state law enforcement leaders and community members and activists will advise the POST Board "on all matters related to police-community relations," review state data on officers' uses of force and recommend discipline for officer misconduct. The POST Board will have to accept the council's discipline recommendations unless they override them with a two-thirds majority vote.
- Law enforcement agencies will have to notify the POST Board if an officer is discharged or resigns during a use-of-force investigation, or after an investigation has been completed. And the board will consider suspending or revoking an officer's license if they are terminated for violating use of force policies.
- Law enforcement agencies will be required to submit to a research group, selected by the Department of Public Safety, reports and information about use of force incidents, misconduct incidents and complaints against officers. The group will organize, store and monitor the data.
- Officers will undergo additional training in crisis response and management, cultural diversity, mental illness and autism.
- The bill also extends the duration for the state's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force to continue working through June 2021.