The Minnesota Legislature this week passed a bipartisan police reform bill that was a needed urgent response to the George Floyd killing. It stands as a good first step to more accountability for police.
The plan outlaws “chokeholds” or neck locks unless the officer’s life is at risk. It bans so-called “warrior training” designed to promote force and dominance. It also calls on the state Peace Officer Standards and Training licensing board to remove warrior training from its list of approved trainings.
The board will also write new rules requiring officers to intervene when they see a colleague using undue force. Police departments around the state will be required to develop their own policies by Dec. 15 that conform to the rules. A special independent unit of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is to investigate when police kill someone or are accused of sexual misconduct.
But officer-involved shootings will not automatically be investigated by the attorney general, as Democrats had proposed. Current law allows the governor to assign such cases to the attorney general, as Gov. Tim Walz has done with the Floyd case.
The new legislation only adds two citizen members to the 15-member POST board, which is mostly made up of career law enforcement officials. That’s not enough new citizen members. The POST board seems geared to side with officers and law enforcement in general.
The bill passed with overwhelming majorities in the House (102-29) and the Senate (60-7.)
Leading lawmakers from both parties were criticized for the secret nature of the negotiations on the bill, with one Republican explaining one long hearing is the best it could offer the public. And, to be sure, many of the issues require more vetting in hearings that were not conducive to special sessions dealing with the COVID-19 virus.
The effort at even this “good start” bill was laudable. Legislators from both parties dealt with urgent issues brought the to the forefront by the Floyd case. The world is watching Minnesota, and its government accomplished a bipartisan bill. The issue should remain prominent in the next special session and the next full session.