Walz, POCI Caucus reveal police reform proposals; here's what they are

The plan will be put forward during the special session.
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Governor Tim Walz

Gov. Tim Walz, DFL leaders, and members of the Minnesota People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus have released a series of proposals aimed at police reform and accountability in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

The proposals released on Thursday will form the framework for DFL legislative efforts during the special session, which starts on Friday.

The session has been convened to enact urgent police reforms in the wake of Floyd's death, as well as to pass a bonding bill and other legislative fixes for the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the policing changes, Gov. Walz says the "reforms have been needed for a long time ... they have been implemented in other places, and the data has shown it works."

Here's a look at what they're proposing:

Use of force
Reform of the keystone statute that defines when law enforcement is justified in using deadly force to prioritize sanctity of life.

Alternatives to policing
This would see the creation of a new office within the Department of Public Safety that would distribute grants to "community-based violence intervenors and problem-solvers," whose aim is to "intercept violence and reduce interactions with law enforcement." It would also fund a "co-responder" form of policing that pairs social workers with officers responding to crisis calls and welfare checks. This comes amid wider concerns in Minneapolis and nationally that police are too often the only responders to calls to which they're not suited.

Police oversight reforms

More accountability with the expansion of the Police Officers Standards and Training Board (POST) and the creation of a "Police-Community Relations Council" on the board. It's also calling for reforms of how arbitrations on police misconduct and the terminations of officers are handled, and a centralized hub that details complaint, discipline, and use of force data, which can be used to decide on the re-licensing of officers.

Restoration of voting rights

Restoring voting rights to an estimated 50,000 Minnesotans who have been convicted of a crime but who aren't serving their sentence in a prison facility, "regardless of their supervision status."

Community healers

A grant program to "fund professional community healers trained to respond to systemic oppression-induced historic and present-day trauma through supportive services."

Prosecution, investigation reform for officer-involved deaths

This would provide the Attorney General with independent jurisdiction for the prosecution of officer-involved deaths, and create an independent unit within the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for police-involved cases. It comes after the prosecution of the officers involved in George Floyd's death was passed from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office to the AG's Office.

Expanding training

Police training would see expansions in "de-escalation and mental health crisis intervention."

Ending use of "warrior training" and banning of choke holds

Choke holds have already been banned in Minneapolis following Floyd's death, this would expand it as well as ending the controversial "warrior training" that critics say takes a "fear-based approach" to policing.

The question will be how many of the changes the DFL will be able to enact with a GOP-controlled Senate, which GOPers likely to be against the voting restoration proposal in particular.

At the same time, those who have concerns that Minneapolis City Council's ultimate efforts to "disband" Minneapolis Police Department goes too far may be hopeful that some of the less sweeping reforms will pass, and have a positive effect.

What might be more likely to pass are reforms to the arbitration process, given that a GOP lawmaker, Rep. Pat Garofalo, has put forward his own bill seeking changes to make the process less biased towards keeping police officers guilty of misconduct.

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