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Walz uses executive actions to enact some police reform

This comes as the legislature is set to vote this week on a watered-down public safety bill.

Gov. Tim Walz is taking executive action to reform policing in Minnesota, he announced Monday. 

This comes as Legislative leaders have announced an agreement on a public safety omnibus bill, which supporters of police reform say falls short of needed change

Walz says his actions will increase transparency and accountability in local and state law enforcement and will invest in violence prevention programs across Minnesota. 

“Right now, we have an opportunity to create safer communities for all Minnesotans by building a public safety system focused on transparency, accountability, and violence prevention,” Gov. Walz said in a statement. “These policy changes and increased investments in safety —together with the Minnesota Police Accountability Act signed into law last summer and the bipartisan public safety plan this legislative session — get us closer to a system of public safety that truly protects all Minnesotans.”

Among the items in Walz's plan: 

— Investing $15 million in American Rescue Plan federal funding to community violence prevention grants, survivor support grants and innovations in community safety grants. The governor says this will fill "critical gaps" in the state's public safety response "as the pandemic has had a disproportionate response on communities of color."

— Enacting policy changes to increase transparency and accountability through the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which would include a data and review process to identify what data the POST Board collects and organize it on a public-facing dashboard

— Directing law enforcement agencies within state government to develop a policy that allows police agencies to release body camera footage within five days to family members of a person who was killed by police (the DFL's proposal was within 48 hours but it wasn't included in the final compromise bill). It also includes funding for body-worn cameras for every officer who serves in the Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, state Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Enforcement and the state Department of Corrections Fugitive Unit.

“Creating meaningful, lasting change that makes our communities safer and dismantles generations of systemic racism in our state takes hard work and commitment,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in a statement. “I am proud of today’s executive actions on police reform and community safety. Together, we are getting closer to the ultimate goal of ensuring that every person in Minnesota is safe, valued, and protected. We all have more work to do.”

Related [June 28]: MN Legislature's agreement on public safety bill leaves out key police reforms

Prior to Walz's announcement, the Minnesota House's People of Color and Indigenous Caucus (POCI) said in a news release Monday it has introduced a number of amendments to the public safety and judiciary budget bill in response to the "absence of several necessary accountability measures" in the proposal, which the House is set to vote on Tuesday. 

The POCI Caucus said the changes so many people have sought following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, that "would help diminish the killing of BIPOC people at the hands of police did not emerge."

“During the regular session and through the special session, the POCI Caucus and members of the House DFL Public Safety Committee worked tirelessly to move meaningful police accountability policies in negotiations with the Senate Republican Majority who refused to hold bad actors accountable. The bill as posted does not include the significant changes to hold police accountable or to prevent future harm," the POCI Caucus said in a statement, vowing to continue to work to see "meaningful police accountability measures that had been previously discussed on the House Floor."

Among those proposals: eliminating pretextual traffic stops, sign and release warrants, and adding rules for body camera footage. 

The POCI Caucus also called on Gov. Walz to use his executive authority to enact change via the POST Board to keep more Minnesotans safe. 

“Black and brown people have not felt safe in Minnesota. This moment requires us to do something different to achieve justice for our community. We are asking our leaders to meet us in this challenge and intervene where they can enact stronger policies. We are not ‘One Minnesota’ until all of us feel safe and protected, particularly by those sworn to do so," the POCI Caucus said. 

In a news conference Monday afternoon, Walz said he's asking the POCI Caucus to support the public safety bill on Tuesday even if their amendments fail, and even though the bill doesn't do enough. 

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