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The state’s police licensing board approved rules Thursday that — if approved by an administrative law judge — would give the board the power to take problem cops off the streets even if they’re not convicted of a crime or disciplined by their bosses.
The rule change would allow the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, or POST Board, to take disciplinary action for a broader range of misconduct. The board could take action if it found an officer used excessive force or engaged in driving under the influence, domestic abuse, assault, felony drug crimes, soliciting prostitutes or theft — even if they weren’t convicted of the crimes.
The POST Board currently can strip an officer of his or her license if they’re convicted of felonies, gross misdemeanors and some misdemeanors or if they lie or cheat on a board test, lie to the board, commit sexual assault or harassment or use unjustified deadly force.
Although less heralded than other attempts to reform police in Minneapolis and at the Legislature in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, the POST Board rule may be the most sweeping change in recent state history.
“This is a big decision,” said POST Board member Justin Terrell, executive director for the Minnesota Justice Research Center, before the board voted 9-3 to approve the new rules.
The proposed rule changes also include a ban on people involved in white supremacy, hate or extremist groups from getting licensed as peace officers. They would allow non-citizens eligible to work in the U.S. to get licensed.
Changing police licensure rules is a long process, with a hearing before an administrative law judge expected this fall and many other steps before the rule could take effect next year.
The chair of the POST Board, Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy, said in an interview, “It’s far from a done deal.”
The process began in August 2020, a few months after Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, sparking interest in the board’s role in police misconduct. A 2020 audit said the board could expand its statutory and regulatory functions to do more oversight.
The makeup of the board has changed since it was expanded by two members to 17, and Gov. Tim Walz appointed seven new members to the board in February 2021. That transformed it from a “sleepy” board into a “dynamic” reform-minded board, according to Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee.
Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, who served on a POST Board advisory council, has called the proposed rule changes a “dramatic overreach by the POST Board.” Novotny, a former sheriff’s deputy, called it “an effort by Walz’s anti-law enforcement appointees to jam through controversial policies they know would never pass at the Legislature.”
But others said leaving consequences for bad behavior up to police investigators and prosecutors doesn’t always work.
Mariani has cited the Jaleel Stallings case as an example. In that case, a Minneapolis SWAT team shot rubber bullets at people protesting the police killing of George Floyd without warning from an unmarked van, prompting Stallings to fire back, thinking they were white supremacists. Stallings then was beaten by two police officers. He was acquitted after claiming self-defense.
But nothing was done about the officers involved until the Reformer published stories about the case, after which the city, state and feds began investigating. So far, none of the officers involved has been disciplined.