State & Federal Legislation
The 2020 Minnesota Legislation
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, House Rep. Carlos Mariani, chair of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee, knew the House needed to address reform in an upcoming special session. His committee acted fast to respond to and channel the energy of people protesting in the streets. House leadership asked his committee to work with the POCI Caucus on the effort (People of Color and Indigenous Caucus across both bodies of legislature). The committee had 12 different police reform bills drafted that needed refining in 5 days. The POCI Caucus said that was not enough. The caucus and committee worked together on 22 bills after engaging the public on four different occasions. They jacketed the bills into three Acts, The Reclaiming Community Oversight Act, The Reforming Accountability Act and The Re-imagining Public Safety Act. Of the 23 provisions originally proposed in those three acts, about 13 survived in some form. They were rolled into a new compromise bill that was able to pass in both the House and the Senate: The Minnesota Police Accountability Act.
Minnesota Police Accountability Act
Signed by the Governor July 23, 2020. Bill – HF 1
Key reform features in the Act:
- Ban on the use of choke holds
- Prohibitions on warrior-style training
- Establishment of an Ensuring Police Excellence and Improving Community Relations Advisory Council under the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board. Consisting of 15 members, the board includes representatives from the law enforcement community, the public, and members appointed by the legislature.
- Another bill, HF 2, was passed and amends several deadlines for the POST Board to take actions and require certain training, and amends the purposes for which an appropriation to the POST Board can be used.
- Use of Force Reforms:
- Limits on use of deadly force
- Duty to intercede established, requiring peace officers to intercede when another officer is using excessive force and to report excessive force incidents to supervisors
- Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, in consultation with interested parties, required to adopt an updated model policy on peace officer use of force by September 1, 2020
- Independent Use of Force Investigations Unit with reporting requirements established in the BCA
- Expansion of Training in the following areas
- Crisis response and mental health
- Conflict management, and cultural diversity
- New arbitrator roster to be appointed by commissioner of the Bureau of Mediation Services to hear officer disputes to discipline, discharge, and termination of officers imposed by Chief
- $40,000,000 over 2 years to effectuate reforms, $6 million per year for police training
- Funds to establish the BCA unit
- Funds to the Bureau of Mediation to establish the arbitration panel
- Funds to the Indigenous Women’s Task Force, Domestic Abuse Prevention Grants, and Criminal Sexual Conduct Statutory Reform
- Allowance of statutory home rule by charter, city or county to offer incentives to peace officers to encourage them to reside in the city or county in which they work
- Clarification that Critical Incident and Peer Counseling data will be confidential unless certain criteria are met
The 2021 Minnesota Legislative Session
After the enactment of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act in 2020, civil rights groups and others had a number of items they wanted to address in the 2021 session. However, with a deeply divided legislature, they were able to move forward on only a few of these. The House Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy held hearings on numerous bills while the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee held very few. As the regular session ended and advanced into a special session, only the following provisions were included in the final bill:
- Statewide regulation of no-knock warrants that allow law enforcement to enter private residences without knocking. The bill regulates the requirements for such warrants and limits the time and manner in which they can be executed. It also provides for reporting requirements to the Department of Public Safety to track these warrants.
- Prompted by deadly interactions with police after traffic stops, such as the one that led to the death of Daunte Wright in April, Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Mpls), successfully offered an amendment that would require “sign and release” warrants for certain infractions, such as missing a court appearance. Under the plan, a police officer, when discovering a person has missed a scheduled court date, would ask the person to sign a citation describing the need to appear in court and then let the person go.
- Language that requires police chiefs to report to the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board all disciplinary actions taken against police officers for the purpose of identifying patterns of behavior suggesting an officer is in crisis or may violate a board-mandated model policy.
- Language that requires 911 operators to refer calls to mental health crisis teams in certain situations and when available.
Note: The bill does not have a provision requiring police to release body camera footage within 48 hours to family members of a person killed by police. However, Governor Walz issued an executive order directing law enforcement agencies to develop policies to release footage to families within five days. In addition, Walz’s order included investing $15 million in American Rescue Plan funding to community violence prevention grants and enacting policy changes to increase transparency and accountability through the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST).
In addition, the public safety component of the omnibus bill contained the following:
- reform civil asset forfeiture laws;
- prohibit the use of restraints on children appearing in court;
- reform jail safety rules – the Hardel Sherrell Act;
- establish a child torture crime with a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $35,000 fine;
- change criminal sexual assault statutes to permit prosecution of cases where victims were intoxicated through voluntary consumption;
- establish new policies addressing the use of confidential informants – Matthew’s Law;
- modify rules for participating in the ignition interlock program;
- create a “Hometown Heroes” assistance program for Minnesota firefighters;
- require the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate criminal sexual conduct cases in the Minnesota National Guard;
- establish a crime for assaulting a peace officer or other criminal justice partner and inflicting great bodily harm;
- establish the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives; and
- create a Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women “to advise the commissioner of public safety and report to the legislature on recommendations to reduce and end violence against African American women and girls in Minnesota.”
The 2022 Minnesota Legislative Session
Items on the “2022 Wish List” include:
- Access within 48 hours for families to video of law enforcement incidents that end in death (see note above)
- A statute of limitations longer than the current 3 years for prosecuting wrongful death
- Tougher limits on use of force by police
- Creation of an independent agency to investigate criminal misconduct, made up of retired attorneys and citizens
- Restoration of voting rights to felons
- Reduction of the need for cash bail
- Change to the judicial standard of review for law enforcement grievances to a reasonable standard and provide an appeals process for terminations or disciplines overturned in arbitration
- Peace officer authority to stop or detain drivers for motor vehicle equipment violations limited
In July 2020, a police reform bill, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (H.R. 7120) was introduced in the United States Congress. It passed the House, but failed in the Senate. On March 3, 2021, the House again passed this bill and sent it to the Senate where it remains stalled.
The bill establishes a framework to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels and addresses a wide range of policies and issues regarding policing practices and law enforcement accountability. It includes measures to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct, to enhance transparency and data collection, and to eliminate discriminatory policing practices.
The bill facilitates federal enforcement of constitutional violations (e.g., excessive use of force) by state and local law enforcement. Among other things, it does the following:
- lowers the criminal intent standard—from willful to knowing or reckless—to convict a law enforcement officer for misconduct in a federal prosecution,
- limits qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against a law enforcement officer or state correctional officer, and
- authorizes the Department of Justice to issue subpoenas in investigations of police departments for a pattern or practice of discrimination.
The bill also creates a national registry—the National Police Misconduct Registry—to compile data on complaints and records of police misconduct. The bill in addition requires law enforcement officers and agencies to report data on use-of-force incidents, to obtain training on implicit bias and racial profiling, and to use body cameras.
Learn more about the federal government role in policing
Interview with Jamael Lundy (JL), Administrator, Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division, Minnesota House of Representatives, December 11, 2020
Minnesota State Senate and Minnesota State House Websites
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