Action = Change: Police Reform Legislation

April 30 — Axios update on police reform at the legislature

The details: The DFL’s public safety package includes limiting traffic enforcement stops for minor violations, adding more civilian oversight of police and curbing use of no-knock warrants.

Between the lines: Last summer’s deal came together with involvement and support from police groups, the business community and members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus. A similar convening hasn’t happened yet this season.

What’s next: A conference committee of members from both chambers will meet Monday to start hashing out the public safety budget bill — the most likely vehicle for policy changes.

The bottom line: There are probably some areas where both sides can agree. But given that just 17 days remain — and the budget and other big issues loom — major changes sought by some Democrats appear less likely.

April 30 — shared by a reader

I just made the calls. I gave my name, city, and phone # It only took a total of 15 minutes. All calls went to voicemail. If you live in Minnesota and care, please make the calls and comment done. Please share with others. Thanks!

From Michelle Gross with CUAPB. Our important bills to increase police accountability and address policing issues are very, very close to crossing the finish line! THIS IS CRUNCH TIME! Our bills have been rolled into the House omnibus bill, HF 1078. However, the Senate omnibus bill, SF 970, does not contain any of our provisions. Because the bills differ, they will now be heard in a House/Senate conference committee. It is IMPERATIVE the final bill include our provisions. The House/Senate conference committee meets on MONDAY, May 3rd. The members of that committee MUST HEAR FROM YOU IMMEDIATELY.

PLEASE contact *each* of these members of the conference committee and tell them to pass the House version HF 1078 with no changes.

  • Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (D) 651-296-7153 Roseville and NE Metro
  • Rep. Cedrick Frazier (D) 651-296-4255 New Hope, Plymouth, Crystal
  • Rep. Carlos Mariani (D) 651-296-9714 St Paul
  • Rep. Tim Miller (R) 651-296-4228 **Rep. Miller has defied his party to come out in support of our bills. Please thank him. Prinsburg, Montevideo
  • Rep. Karen Moller (D) 651-296-0141 Shoreview, Arden Hills
  • Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R) 651-297-8063 Fergus Falls, Ottertail Lake area.
  • Sen. Mark Johnson (R) 651-296-5782 Thief River Falls
  • Sen Ron Latz (D) 651-297-8065 St Louis Park, Hopkins.
  • Sen. Warren Limmer (R) 651-296-2159 Rogers, Maple Grove
  • Sen. Andrew Mathews (R) 651-296-8075 Milaca

April 22 — From a Minnesota House of Representatives news release

A day after the guilty verdict in the trial of the police officer charged with the killing of George Floyd, the Minnesota House of Representatives advanced a major finance bill containing Public Safety, Criminal Justice Reform, Judiciary and Civil Law legislation on a vote of 70-63. The legislation increases accountability for law enforcement while also increasing investments in public safety. Furthermore, it expands justice for survivors of sexual assault and helps to equip communities for keeping their neighborhoods safe. The bill also focuses on reducing racial bias, decriminalizes poverty, and ensuring that every Minnesotan faces equitable treatment under our justice system.

Said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (Roseville), Chair of the House Judiciary & Civil Law Committee, “This bill makes systemic changes to reduce bias inherent in our current systems. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues in the Senate so we can craft a bill that creates equitable justice for all Minnesotans.”

The legislation contains significant new investments in tools for law enforcement, including:

  • $14 million over the next four years for local police to issue body-worn cameras, reform-focused training, and updating policies.
  • It builds upon the work of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act, enacted in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, to further strengthen the police officer misconduct database in building a more effective early warning intervention system to eliminate and correct harmful practices.
  • It allows local units of government to establish civilian oversight councils and funds community organizations working to prevent crime in their communities while addressing the need for community healing after traumatic events.
  • To prevent white supremacist causes from infiltrating law enforcement, the bill prohibits peace officers from associating with hateful, intimidating, and often violent groups.
  • There are provisions that require the courts to consider the potential for financial hardship on Minnesotans before increasing fines or fees, ensuring that low-income Minnesotans aren’t punished disproportionately.
  • It contains critical legislation that prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their pay history, which is a critical step in closing the gender pay gap.
  • Through the inclusion of the “Clean Slate Act,” the legislation gives many Minnesotans “second chance” opportunities following incarceration. The measure would automatically expunge eligible low-level offenses after successfully completing a diversion program or a certain period of time without committing a new crime.
  • The bill also includes the Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act, allowing those in prison to earn early release by successfully completing goals identified in their own Individualized Rehabilitation Plan. Other critical probation reforms that prioritize rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration are also included.
  • The bill includes a series of major updates to Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct code recommended by a survivor-led working group established in a prior legislative session to address old approaches to these crimes that create barriers for survivors to receive justice. One such example closes the “voluntary intoxication” statutory loophole (see our full story on that). It also prevents sexual extortion and includes a series of measures to protect children.
  • The legislation contains important anti-hate reforms to increase the reporting, analyses, and training on crimes motivated by bias so Minnesotans can better understand and confront hate throughout the state.
  • Increased funding for public defenders is provided so defendants can get the attention and aid required as part of their Constitutional rights.
  • The bill includes legislation to provide counsel to parents and guardians in child custody cases, which is designed to keep families together.
  • Another provision in the Public Safety Budget invests $30 million to replenish Minnesota’s Disaster Assistance Contingency Account. The Disaster Assistance Contingency Account, signed into law in 2014, speeds up the recovery process for communities burdened with damages to public property and infrastructure like roads, utilities, and public buildings. Prior to the passage of the law, the Legislature was required to convene each time a disaster was declared in order to appropriate state money toward community recovery efforts, often in a special session.

“We said from the start that our public safety reforms last year were just the beginning. The House DFL budget takes strong steps to improve a criminal justice system that lacks sufficient police accountability measures and fails too many victims of sexual assault,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “We know that despite the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial that our work is far from done. DFLers are committed to delivering safe communities and a fair justice system for all Minnesotans.” 

The bill language is available here. The spreadsheet can be found here. A video recording of the floor debate is available on the House Public Information YouTube channel.

Reach out to key lawmakers to express your views on this legislation: 

Data: Mapping Police Violence; Icons: WeePeople by ProPublica; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios. Some activists and politicians are calling for a re-examination of rules around traffic stops, following reports that the encounter with Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center was triggered by an expired vehicle registration tab. Gov. Tim Walz has asked the Legislature to hold hearings on additional police accountability measures, saying it is time to address the idea of “routine traffic stops being a heavily armed situation.”

April 15 — From a story by Axios: Black people are killed by police at higher rates than white people in 47 of the 50 largest cities in the country, according to comparisons from 2013 to 2020.

  • Although Black people are three times as likely to be killed by police than white people, they are 1.3 times as likely to be unarmed compared to white people.
  • Police killings have generally increased in suburban and rural areas and decreased in cities.

April 14 — The Minnesota Legislature’s People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus and United Black Legislative Caucus (UBLC) discussed at a news conference this week — after the killing of Daunte Wright by another police officer — the actions some legislators are proposing to improve accountability for law enforcement, including:

  • allowing local governments to establish civilian oversight councils
  • banning the alteration, erasure, or destruction of body-worn camera recordings and withholding footage
  • prohibiting officers from affiliating with white supremacist groups
  • providing funding for community organizations working to prevent crime 

Rep. Samantha Vang is chair of the POCI Caucus and represents Brooklyn Center. She said at an April 12 news conference: “We cannot keep doing the same things and expect a different result, we must do better to ensure justice for victims and peace for our future.”

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee has held 21 public hearings about police reform and accountability, 11 of which occurred in 2021. In the Senate, there has not been a public hearing about police accountability or reform this year.

Last summer lawmakers passed reforms — such as a prohibition on “warrior training,” a ban on chokeholds, and requiring the duty to intercede — but blocked the House and Governor Walz from enacting other reforms, such as enhanced citizen oversight and strengthening the police officer misconduct database.

“We have held dozens of hearings over the course of the session that were met with resistance and dismissiveness from law enforcement groups and Republican members in both the Senate and the House,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier ( New Hope), Vice Chair of the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee. “The people of Minnesota deserve and demand a future where community trust is sacred, police officers are held accountable for misconduct, and justice is served. We cannot normalize waking up to a piling list of Black men killed by law enforcement officers.”  

The POCI Caucus, UBLC, House DFL, and Senate DFL need public support to pass reforms before the 2021 legislative session adjourns in May.  

See the list of suggested bills below.

On Wednesday, April 14th, the Senate POCI Caucus and other community groups will call on state legislative leaders and Governor Walz to suspend all policy and budget negotiations until both the House and Senate have heard and adopted legislation on police accountability.

  • Senators include: Senator Fateh, Senator Torres Ray and others. Coalition Organizations Include: CAIR-Minnesota, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Racial Justice Network, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamal, Minnesota Justice Coalition, and others

How to contact your state representatives

Details on Public Safety Bills

Some of the pending bills in Minnesota legislature that would help tackle police reform are listed below. There have been over 400 deaths caused by police since 2000. This list was created by a consortium of organizations seeking change:

  • End the Statute of Limitations for Lawsuits for Wrongful Deaths Caused by Police (HF 717, SF 2021) bill here
  • Strengthen Civilian Oversight (HF 640) bill here
  • End Police-Only Responses to Mental Health Crisis Calls (HF 1686, SF 1924) bill here
  • End Qualified Immunity (HF 1104, SF 580) bill here
  • Independent Investigatory and Prosecutory Body for Police Critical Incidents
  • End Prosecution for Reporting Police Misconduct (HF 2201) bill here
  • End No Knock Warrants (HF 1762, SF 2139) bill here
  • Require Police to Carry Professional Liability Insurance (HF 440, SF 815) bill here
  • Require Access to Body Worn Camera Footage in Police Critical Incidents within 48 Hours (HF 1103, SF 807) bill here
  • Exclude white supremacists from serving as police officers (HF593)
  • Track misconduct and help identify officers with harmful patterns of behavior (HF1374)
  • Limit authority for police officers to stop or detain drivers for certain vehicle equipment violations. (TBD)