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'Cop out': Senate GOP leader under fire for cancelling police reform hearings

Senate Maj. Leader Paul Gazelka retracted support for such hearings.

The state senate's top Republican has decided not to proceed with a full hearing on police reform, despite having publicly expressed support for doing so.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, of East Gull Lake, announced last week that the chamber would hold "fact-finding" hearings on some police reform proposals.

As Minnesota Reformer reports, Gazelka said on April 13 that he's "committed" to having a stand-alone hearing on the issue, adding, "I’m promising to listen to see if something is warranted.” 

But now, the news site notes, the discussion will instead be handled by a conference committee, a smaller, "less transparent" panel of legislators from both chambers of the legislature. 

On the Senate floor Thursday, Gazelka said the change was made in light of the Derek Chauvin conviction, and the U.S. Justice Department's announcement that it would investigate alleged misconduct in the Minneapolis Police Department, the Star Tribune says. 

According to the paper, Gazelka also cited limited staffing resources due to the upcoming "marathon" negotiations over a new public safety omnibus bill — which includes measures aimed at reforming some parts of Minnesota's justice system.

Nonetheless, the move has drawn scorn from Gazelka's colleagues across the aisle, with Senator Ron Latz (DFL-Saint Louis Park), ranking member of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, saying that "pushing the issue into a conference committee is a cop out."

A conference committee discussion on police reform, Latz said in a news release, "will have limited participation and essentially cuts out a large contingent of Senators who deserve to be heard on these issues."

In the same news release, Latz noted that Senate Republicans also voted down a Judiciary bill amendment that would have banned from service any police officers "who belong to extremist organizations including those groups espousing white supremacy."

"Senate Republicans said they condemn white supremacists but wouldn’t vote to do so," Latz added.

Gazelka's latest comments on the matter have also been criticized, with Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis) taking aim at the Republican's ambiguous position on police reform:

You can read more about the public safety bill — including efforts by lawmakers to enact police reform measures — right here. 

 

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