Daily Reformer: The world is watching, senators

June 17, 2020 8:42 am

State Sen. Warren Limmer, GOP chair of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, faces a tough reelection battle.

The Minnesota state Senate debated police and criminal justice reform for 12 hours Tuesday and with the world watching came away with minimalist, CYA changes sought by the GOP majority. 

For the — need I say it? — all-white majority, the libertarianism that is supposed to be half of the bedrock of their political philosophy does not extend to Black Americans on the receiving end of centuries of state domination and social control.  

The Reformer’s Ricardo Lopez has this piece on the extraordinary debate

Sen. Patricia Torres Ray asked every single state senator of color whether the Senate GOP had consulted with them on the criminal reform bills they are voting on tonight. All answered in the negative. 

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, replied, in part: 

“I did go to inner city Minneapolis and St. Paul… five or six times, because I wanted to talk to the people, everyday people, all colors, to get their perspectives and when I think about people of color, Indigenous, I’m thinking about the people down there.”

Here’s where they wound up, as Ricardo reported earlier in the day:

Senate Republicans proposed adding money for diversity training; expanding background checks beyond just officers to all police employees; banning chokeholds and neck restraints in most instances and adding a requirement to intervene and report in cases of excessive force. Their proposals also include new data reporting requirements: any use of force that leads to death or injury must be reported to the state. Another measure sponsored by former Douglas County sheriff and state Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, would guarantee confidentiality for police officers and other first responders who seek peer counseling after a so-called critical incident. 

The chokehold ban, which is already policy in many departments, has a huge loophole. Other than that, do you see much there that’s really going to change the relationship between police and communities of color? 

Anything about making it easier to fire bad cops?

Apropos: Let’s remember who has real influence here: I’m pretty sure it ain’t people in the “inner city.” 

Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll felt so comfortable with fellow Trump BFF Gazelka that he said in a letter to more than 800+ union members that he used the relationship to urge state government’s top ranking Republican to take control of the National Guard as it tried to bring order the Twin Cities during the recent riots. 

“The Senate was going to try and run the actions that the governor displayed he is currently incompetent to do,” Kroll wrote. 

General Gazelka denied that he and Colonel Kroll were up to a coup attempt, but it was all quite telling, wasn’t it? 

Because we’re living in it, I don’t think we recognize the significance of this time, and this place. 

Because of the police killing of George Floyd at Cup Foods in south Minneapolis, we’re on the cusp of the most important racial progress in more than half a century, not just here but around the country and indeed around the world. It’s an international movement that at root recognizes the dignity of every human being.

It’s literally world changing. Legislatures in several other states, including GOP majority chambers, have already taken up the cause of changing the relationship between peace officers and citizens — and Black citizens especially. 

But Senate Republicans here face a restive base, already furious they didn’t put up more of a fight against Walz’s COVID-19 response. And now in full-on freakout over the cities. So they’re not about to cross Kroll, who is a charter member of “Cops for Trump.”

They’re not listening to me, nor should they. But Senate Republicans might consider: The election in November is going to go how it’s going to go. You have little control over it. 

But history has a discerning eye, and will judge you accordingly. Think of the first line of your own obit, Senate Republicans.  

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.