St. Paul, MN – Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed the Minnesota Police Accountability Act banning “warrior training” for police officers into law on Thursday after its bipartisan passage by the state’s lawmakers.
“Every single person, every single Minnesotan deserves to feel safe and protected in their communities,” Walz told reporters at a signing ceremony for the legislation on July 23.
“This bipartisan piece of legislation moves us towards a critical step towards criminal justice reform,” he said.
The police reform act was drafted by the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus and is supposed to hold police officers accountable for harmful acts perpetrated on members of the community in the line of duty, WCCO reported.
The new law prohibits “warrior training” for police departments and bans the use of chokeholds by officers.
The police reform act also requires the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board to develop a uniform use-of-force policy to be implemented by every law enforcement agency in the state, WCCO reported.
The POST board will also be required to maintain a publicly-searchable database of information on licensed peace officers in the state, WCCO reported.
Going forward, the law requires that all police officers intervene if they see a fellow officer using what they consider to be excessive force, and failure to do so can be criminally charged.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott, who also sits on the board of the Minneapolis chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told WCCO he didn’t think the police reform measures went far enough.
“The reform and the legislation doesn’t go far enough to really end racialized policing and overpolicing of black and brown communities,” Elliott said. “It does not include a special prosecutor to oversee these cases when police kill someone, and I think that is incredibly important to have.”
The new law does include the addition of an independent investigatory unit for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that would be dedicated to investigating the actions of law enforcement, WCCO reported.
“Lawmakers need to sit down with community members and we need a real coming together this moment calls for the very best in all of us and we have to put aside our differences and we have to make right – the whole entire world is watching us,” Elliott said.
Most Democratic lawmakers agreed with his assessment, WCCO reported.
“The conversation cannot and will not end here with the passage of this bill, because there is a lot of work that will be required to protect black bodies,” Minnesota State Senate Assistant Minority Leader Senator Jeff Hayden said after the vote early Tuesday morning.
Hayden complained that the new police accountability act didn’t include definitions of penalties for bad actors, and vowed to take that up in the next legislative session, WCCO reported.
The governor agreed with the Democratic lawmakers’ assessment the bill didn’t go far enough and urged an open dialog between the community, lawmakers, and law enforcement going forward.
The police reforms come on the heels of two months of rioting after the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
The Minneapolis City Council has also been busy revamping the way the city charter treats the Minneapolis Police Department going forward.
City council members pledged to abolish the police department in the wake of Floyd’s death but they can’t actually do that without taking it the citizens for a vote, so they crafted an amendment for the November ballot.
Under the amendment, the police department would be replaced by a Department of Community Service and Violence Prevention that would take a “holistic” and “public-health oriented” approach to keeping the city safe, KFGO reported.
The proposed amendment, if passed by the city council, will proceed to a policy committee and the city’s Charter Commission for review.
Charter Commissioner Chairman Barry Clegg said the process feels rushed, WIFR reported.
“As I understand it, they are saying, ‘We are going to have this new department. We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. We won’t implement this for a year, we’ll figure it out,’” Clegg said. “For myself anyway, I would prefer that we figured it out first, and then voted on it.”
He explained that the ballot measure must finish the review process, be passed by the council, and go through a mayoral veto period before Aug. 21 in order to be finalized and placed on the November ballot, WIFR reported.
But Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has said he will not support abolishing the police department and has expressed concerns about the amendment to the city charter.