$3 Million Donation for Police Reform Efforts

In late February, a year after a task force report was released on recommendations and protocols to reduce police-involved deadly encounters, a $3 million investment was announced to help execute some of the solutions.

Executive Director Susan Bass Roberts was part of an announcement with the Minnesota Governor, Attorney General, and Public Safety Commissioner to announce that the Pohlad Family Foundation has committed $3 million to fund implementation of the  recommendations of the State of Minnesota Working Group on Police-Involved Deadly-Force Encounters

“The Pohlad Family Foundation supports racial-justice efforts that are community-based and draw upon a wide range of expertise,” said Susan Bass Roberts, vice president and executive director of the Pohlad Family Foundation. “The recommendations of this working group resonated with us because they were practical and actionable, and most importantly, because people who have had negative encounters with law enforcement had a role in defining the solutions.” 

Pohlad Family Foundation Investment

In 2020, the Pohlad family committed $25 million to advance racial justice in the Twin Cities. One of the Pohlad Family Foundation’s three Racial Justice programs is Reimagining Public Safety. As part of that program, the Foundation announced it is committing $3 million, in a partnership with the National League of Cities, to support the working group’s recommendations and efforts at municipal and county levels to ensure that recommendations have the resources to be implemented.  

The Foundation will issue a Request for Proposal on March 15, 2021. The RFP aims to:  

  • Innovate and transform traditional approaches to public safety  
  • Reduce the occurrence and severity of negative encounters between law enforcement and the community 
  • Actively confront racial disparities and history of racism to improve safety, trust and greater wellbeing for Black communities 

The Foundation is looking for applicants from the seven-county metro area who will partner with a broad range of stakeholders on proposals such as: 

  • Adoption or expansion of co-responder, community responder or similar models that focus on de-escalation of negative encounters with law enforcement  
  • Strategies that offer a range of response options for how calls to 911 are categorized and dispatched 
  • Workforce recruitment, training and skill development specific to efforts that increase racial diversity and foster an anti-racist work culture  
  • Practices that increase transparency and increase accountability  
  • Efforts that incorporate trauma, healing and restorative approaches  
  • Efforts that include solutions and resources from within the local community that promote public safety and broader wellbeing 

Governor’s Budget Investments

(more on this budget to come from Minnesota Women’s Press soon)

In his budget for the 2021-23 biennium, Governor Walz has proposed investing $4.2 million in to address several working group recommendations:  

  • $1.2 million annually to establish and maintain the Minnesota Heals Program, broken into: $400,000 in grants for community healing following a traumatic event; $400,000 to establish a Statewide Critical Incident Stress Management Services Office for first responders; $400,000 for grants for trauma services and burial costs for families following an officer-involved death or the death of an officer. 
  • $3 million in FY2022 for Innovations in Policing grants to incentivize municipalities, counties, and tribal governments to implement transformative strategies connected to preventing and reducing police-involved deadly force encounters. This will include planning, pilot programs, implementation, or to enhance community-based mental health and trauma-informed services that can provide alternatives to arrest and booking. 

Progress Report 

In the year since the working group released its 28 recommendations and 33 action steps, measurable progress has been made on 23 of them.

The passage of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020 is a significant source of that progress. The Governor and Legislature also provided funding in 2020 for measures related to reducing deadly-force encounters. 

For example, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is creating a Use of Force Investigations Section. This unit will focus exclusively on use of force investigations, criminal sexual conduct violations involving peace officers, and conflict of interest investigations where public officials are accused of crimes. This unit is separate from the rest of the BCA’s investigation division. 

A Victim, Family, and Community Relations Coordinator position was created to ensure that survivors of police-involved deadly-force encounters, and families of those who have died, are treated respectfully, provided timely information on a consistent basis, and given access to appropriate resources and services. 

Working Group

Shortly after they took office, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington began discussing a working group to identify ways to reduce deadly-force encounters with law enforcement. On July 22, 2019, they announced the State of Minnesota Working Group on Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters, composed of 16 members that they chose to ensure that a cross-section of community, advocacy, academic, foundation, mental-health, law-enforcement, and criminal-justice-system stakeholders were at the table. They chose members to ensure geographic and racial diversity. It was expanded to include members of the disability and autism community. Those 18 members stayed at the table for the duration of the process. 

It is the first body in the country with such diverse membership to take a statewide look at the many factors that contribute to deadly force encounters and their impact on all people, systems, and communities involved in them, and then to make actionable recommendations for reducing them. 

Working group members conducted four all-day hearings and three listening sessions around the state between August 2019 and January 2020. At working group hearings, members heard testimony from family members who lost loved ones in deadly force encounters; families of peace officers involved in deadly force encounters; community members; local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies; prosecutors; academics and researchers; the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board; the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; mental health and disability advocates; Minnesota League of Cities; community-healing practitioners; the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives; police union representatives and attorneys; providers of officer mental-health and wellness programs; other tribal, local, and state representatives; the general public; and national experts in reducing use of force, policing equity and data, innovation in prosecution, constitutional law, and community engagement before, during, and after deadly force encounters. 

On February 24, 2020, the working group released an executive summary of its work along with its 28 recommendations and 33 actions steps. Among the recommendations: 

  • Adopt a co-responder model to improve outcomes for people with disabilities or who are in mental-health crisis, and ensure that officers develop skills to recognize and respond appropriately to people with disabilities and refer them to appropriate resources. (2.2, 2.7) 
  • Train all law-enforcement agencies in de-escalation skills and tactics to reduce use of force, especially when responding to people in crisis. (2.3) 
  • Create an independent, specialized unit within the BCA to investigate all officer-involved shootings and uses of force that result in death or severe bodily injury. (3.1) 
  • Review law and policy on body-worn cameras to ensure transparency and accountability in deadly force encounters; involve community in developing and reviewing policy; evaluate impact by 2022 and fund statewide implementation if proven effective. (3.3) 
  • Discuss strategies to increase the role of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board in approving, suspending, or revoking officer licenses at request of chief or sheriff. (4.3) 
  • Establish a data-collection and reporting system that tracks all police-involved deadly force encounters. (4.4) 
  • Collect, analyze, and publish data about police-community interactions, use of force, and deadly force encounters. (4.8) 
  • Expand resources, and increase statewide awareness of existing resources, to improve mental health and wellness of first responders and dispatchers. (5.1) 

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