Minnesota lawmakers approve series of police reforms in second special session

The Minnesota State Capitol. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

The Minnesota Legislature early on Tuesday approved a series of police reforms, including a ban on certain chokeholds; a ban on “warrior-style” training for police officers that critics say leads to overly aggressive policing; the establishment of a police-community relations council under the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training; and, residency incentives for police officers to live in the city they patrol. 

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign the measure, nearly two months after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, touching off the large mass demonstrations in Minnesota and throughout the country calling for major changes to police practices.

Lawmakers spent much of the past week negotiating behind closed doors broad differences between the Republican-controlled Senate and DFL majority House. Legislative leaders returned to St. Paul Monday with a “tentative” deal that hit a snag early in the afternoon after unspecified GOP objections, according to one House DFL lawmaker familiar with the negotiations. 

By late Monday, legislative leaders posted the text of the bill and quickly voted. The House voted 102-29 after a short debate and the Senate voted 60-7 around 2 a.m. Tuesday. 

Among the changes that will become state law are:

The legislation would also require police departments to submit an annual use of force report to lawmakers; mandate more de-escalation training, as well as training on handling people with autism or those experiencing a mental health crisis; a duty to intervene for officers who witness a colleague using excessive force; and a new grievance and arbitration procedure that calls for a rotating list of arbitrators who receive additional training in police procedure.

“By passing this bill into law, we’re taking the first steps toward major changes to hold police officers accountable for harmful acts, and we are committed to continuing our work for safer communities,” said state Rep. Carlos Mariani, the veteran St. Paul DFL lawmaker who chairs the House Public Safety committee. “It wasn’t safe for George Floyd or for Philando Castile, and they deserved a better way to police that builds community.”

Mariani and state Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St.Paul, one of the few Black lawmakers in the statehouse, helped lead negotiations for the House in recent days.

“Passing this bill is a major step forward toward reimagining our vision for public safety in Minnesota, and it is rooted in our core values of human dignity and the sanctity of life, which are shared across our state,” Moran said in a statement.

After passing the measure, the Legislature adjourned. 

Lawmakers left St. Paul without agreement on a public infrastructure bill because lawmakers could not muster a supermajority as required by law because it would have required borrowing money.

The House also voted on a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis, while the Senate voted on a resolution calling for the governor to return students to school in the fall. 

Legislative leaders are expected to speak with reporters Tuesday morning.

 

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.