Minnesota Legislature Adopts Significant Police Reform

Early this morning, July 21, the Minnesota Legislature in Special Session adopted a significant police reform bill, the Minnesota Police Accountability Act. Just before midnight, the House did so, 102-29, and the Senate did the same a few hours later, 60-7 and sent the bill to Governor Tim Walz for his promised signature.[1]

Summary of the Act[2]

The House’s Research Memo about the Act listed the following provisions:

  • “Critical incident stress management teams and public safety peer counseling.
  • Investigatory reform.
  • Police residency reform.
  • Banning chokeholds and certain neck restraints.
  • Use of force reform.
  • Use of force reporting.
  • POST Board reform and citizen engagement.
  • Prohibiting warrior-style training.
  • POST Board model policies.
  • Mental health and crisis intervention training.
  • Mandatory autism training.
  • Requiring the duty to intervene and report.
  • Arbitration reform.
  • Peace officer training assistance funding extension.”

Here are that Research Memo’s summaries of some of these provisions in light of issues raised by the police killing of George Floyd on February 25th.

Prohibiting Chokeholds and Certain Neck Restraints (sections 7 and 8). “Prohibits a peace officer from using [chokeholds and] certain neck restraints, unless section 609.066 authorizes the use of deadly force to protect the peace officer or another from death or great bodily harm. With the exception described above, officers will no longer be able to use chokeholds, they will not be able to tie all of the person’s limbs together behind the person’s back to render the person immobile, and they cannot secure a person in any way that results in transporting the person face down in a vehicle. The only time a peace officer can restrict free movement of a person’s neck or head is to protect the peace officer or another from imminent harm. For the purposes of this section, chokeholds are defined as “a method by which a person applies sufficient pressure to a person to make breathing difficult or impossible, and includes but is not limited to any pressure to the neck, throat, or windpipe that may prevent or hinder breathing, or reduce the intake of air.” It also means, “applying pressure to a person’s neck on either side of the windpipe, but not to the windpipe itself, to stop the flow of blood to the brain via the carotid arteries.”

Prohibiting Warrior-Style Training (Section 12). “Prohibits the use of warrior-style training by law enforcement. It also states that the POST [Board of Police Officer Standards and Training] may not certify a continuing education course that includes warrior-style training; the Board may not grant continuing education credit to a peace officer for a course that includes warrior-style training; and the Board may not reimburse a law enforcement agency or a peace officer for a course that includes warrior-style training. Warrior-style training is defined in . . . this section as training for peace officers that dehumanizes people or encourages aggressive conduct by peace officers during encounters with others in a manner that deemphasizes the value of human life or constitutional rights, the result of which increases a peace officer’s likelihood or willingness to use deadly force.”

Requiring the Duty To Intervene and Report (Section 21). “This section lays out that peace officers, regardless of tenure or rank, must intercede when (1) present and observing another peace officer using force, in violation of MS, Section 609.066, Subd. 2, or otherwise beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstance to prevent the use of unreasonable force; and (2) is physically and verbally in a position to do so. Lastly, this section establishes a duty to report excessive use of force incidents in writing to the chief law enforcement officer of the agency that employs the reporting officer and provides that failure to comply with either duty is grounds for POST Board discipline under the Board’s rules.”

Police Residency Reform (Section 6). “This section allows cities or counties to offer incentives to encourage a person hired as an officer to be a resident of that city or county. . . .”

Arbitration reform (Sections 22 and 24). “This section modifies how, and which arbitrators are used in peace officer grievance arbitration by establishing an arbitrator selection procedure. These changes apply to all peace officer grievance arbitrations for written disciplinary action, discharge, or termination, and must be included in the grievance procedure for all collective bargaining agreements covering peace officers negotiated on or after the enactment date.”

‘Once a peace officer grievance is filed, the Bureau of Mediation Services assigns or appoints an arbitrator from the roster, on a rotation through the roster alphabetically ordered by last name. All parties involved cannot be involved in selecting the arbitrator. The arbitrator or panel will decide the grievance, and the decision is binding subject to provisions of the Uniform Arbitration Act (Ch. 572B). The changes made to the arbitration process in this section only applies to peace officer grievances and do not apply to other public employees. Peace officers cannot agree to a collective bargaining agreement or grievance arbitration selection procedure that is not consistent with the changes in this section.”

“The Bureau of Mediation Services, . . .in consultation with community and law enforcement stakeholders, is required to appoint a roster of at least 6 qualified arbitrators. Any arbitrator seeking appointment to this roster must complete six hours of training in culture competency, racism, implicit bias, and recognize the value in community diversity and cultural differences. They will also be required complete six hours of training related to daily experiences of police officers The Bureau of Mediation Services may adopt rules establishing training requirements for the pool of arbitrators.”

Other Provisions. The Act also improves data collection around deadly force encounters, creates a new state unit to investigate those cases, and boosts funding for crisis intervention training for police.

Reactions to the New Act[3]

Representative Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), the author of the bill and chair of the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Division, after the House passage, said, ““Today, we’re beginning to make the overdue changes Minnesotans have been demanding to help ensure no more lives are lost due to police violence. 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. It wasn’t safe for George Floyd or for Philando Castile, and they deserved a better way to police that builds community.”

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (Rep.) said, ““We’ve never stopped working on this, whether we were in session or out of session. That’s something we all felt was important.”

Senator Jeff Hayden (DFL), who represents the district where police killed Floyd, said the Act fails to provide “robust police accountability measures and transformative criminal justice” while Senator Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis) voted against the bill because, she said, it “is not actually the bill that communities of color want.”

Upon passage, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz tweeted the following:

  • ‪”George Floyd’s death brought the urgent need for meaningful police reform into sharp focus.”
  • “Last night, the Legislature passed bipartisan police accountability and reform measures. This is a critical step toward justice.”
  • “But this is only the beginning. The work does not end today.”
  • “Everyone deserves to feel safe and protected by police. I look forward to signing these long-overdue reforms to strengthen transparency and community oversight, ban chokeholds and warrior training, expand de-escalation training for officers, and reduce the use of deadly force.”
  • “Thank you to the communities of color and the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, who have led this conversation and fought tirelessly for change.”

Conclusion

 Congratulations to Representative Mariani for being the lead author of this bill and to all the State Senators and Representatives for persistently negotiating and compromising to produce this important reform of policing in Minnesota.

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[1] Bierschbach, Minnesota lawmakers pass sweeping package of police accountability measures, StarTribune (July 21, 2020); Mearhoff, Minnesota lawmakers advance police accountability measures 8 weeks after Floyd’s death, Twin Cities Pioneer Press (July 21, 2020); MPR, Legislature passes policing bill, ends special session, MPR News (July 21, 2020); Assoc. Press, Minnesota Lawmakers Ban Neck Restraints After Floyd’s Death, N.Y. Times (July 21, 2020); Bella, Minnesota passes police accountability measures, including banning chokeholds, two months after George Floyd’s death, Wash. Post (July 21, 2020); Orenstein & Callaghan, The Legislature just passed a police reform bill. What it does—and doesn’t do—to reshape law enforcement in Minnesota, MINNPOST (July 21, 2020); Cook, House, Senate agree to compromise
police reform. Minn. H. Rep.(July 21, 2020).

[2] Minnesota Legislature, Research Memo: HF 1 (Marlani), The Minnesota Police Accountability Act [July 2020); HF1 Minnesota Police Accountability Act (1st Engrossment)(July 21, 2020).

[3] Mariani, RELEASE: Minnesota House Passes Police Accountability Act (July 20, 2020); Governor Tim Walz, Tweet on Passage of Minnesota Police Accountability Act, facebook.com/GovTimWalz/ (July 21, 2020).

 

 

Ban on  Police Choke Holds and Neck Restraints in Agreement Between City of Minneapolis and Minnesota Human Rights Department

On June 5, the City of Minneapolis and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced an agreement to ban Minneapolis police from using choke holds and neck restraints and to require officers to intervene when inappropriate force is used. The agreement was approved that same day by the Minneapolis City Council and signed by Mayor Jacob Frey, who said, “George Floyd’s service yesterday underscored that justice for George requires more than accountability for the man who killed him – it requires accountability from elected leadership to deep, structural reforms. Today’s agreement with the state will help bring those layers of accountability. This unprecedented energy and momentum for police reform has left Minneapolis poised not just to address our shortcomings, but to become a model for shifting police culture and uprooting systemic racism.” [1]

The agreement is in the form of a Stipulation and Order to be signed by a Hennepin County District Judge after the Department files a lawsuit against the City, which a StarTribune article says happened in the afternoon of June 5, but which was not yet publicly available..[2] This is a result of the Department’s  June 2nd filing a civil rights charge against the City related to the George Floyd death and launching a general investigation of whether and how the Minneapolis Police Department has for the past 10 years engaged in discretionary practices toward people of color.[3]

This Stipulation, if and when it is approved by a district judge, would order the City of Minneapolis as follows:

  1. BAN CHOKEHOLDS: “Within 10 days of the Effective Date, the City will amend Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual §§ 5-100 (Code of Conduct), 5-300 (Use of Force), and 5-311 (Use of Neck Restraints and Choke Holds) to prohibit the use of all neck restraints or choke holds for any reason.”
  2. DUTY TO REPORT: Regardless of tenure or rank, any member of the City’s Police Department who observes another member of the City’s Police Department use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint, in violation of this Stipulation and Order, has an affirmative duty to immediately report the incident while still on scene by phone or radio to their Commander or their Commander’s superiors.”
  3. DUTY TO INTERVENE: Regardless of tenure or rank, any member of the City’s Police Department who observes another member of the City’s Police Department use any unauthorized use of force, including any choke hold or neck restraint in violation of this Stipulation and Order, must attempt to safely intervene by verbal and physical means, and if they do not do so shall be subject to discipline to the same severity as if they themselves engaged in the prohibited use of force.”
  4. CROWD CONTROL AUTHORIZATION: During protests and demonstrations, use of all crowd control weapons must be authorized only by the Chief of Police, or if the Chief is unavailable, the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief or above. Crowd control weapons include, but are not limited to, chemical agents, rubber bullets, flash-bangs, batons, and marking rounds. The Police Department shall contemporaneously document the person who authorized the use of crowd control weapons and retain such documentation for a period of not less than seven years. Accordingly, within 10 days of the Effective Date, the City will amend Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual § 5-313 to reflect that chemical agents, regardless of canister size, may be used during crowd control situations if authorized only by the Chief of Police, or if the Chief is unavailable, the Chief’s designee at the rank of Deputy Chief or above. Any other provisions of the Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual that identify the authorized use of other crowd control weapons must also be amended within 10 days of the Effective Date to reflect that use of such weapons must be authorized only by the Chief of Police.”
  5. TIMELY DISCIPLINE DECISIONS: For all recommendations that are pending as of the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, the Police Chief must issue a decision on any recommendation from the City’s Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR) within 45 calendar days of the Effective Date. For all recommendations of merit provided by the OPCR after the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, and for the duration of this Stipulation and Order, the Police Chief must issue a written memorandum explaining the basis their decision, including the relevant facts, policies and law supporting the decision, within 30 calendar days. If and when permitted by Minn. Stat. § 13.43, the decision and written memorandum will be immediately made available to the public via the City’s website and must also be available for physical inspection. Within 90 calendar days of the Effective Date of this Stipulation and Order, the City shall amend any city ordinances to conform to the requirements of this paragraph. The City shall also amend any city ordinances to fashion an appropriate remedy for the person filing the complaint if a determination on the OPCR’s recommendation of merit is not made within the 30 calendar day time period.”
  6. BODY WORN CAMERA FOOTAGE REVIEW: Civilian body worn camera footage analysts and investigators in the OPCR will have the authority to proactively and strategically audit body worn camera (BWC) footage and file or amend complaints on behalf of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. Within 90 calendar days of the Effective Date, the City of Minneapolis will submit to the Department of Human Rights a plan for detailing how it intends to strategically utilize this audit function to identify discriminatory practices in policing, including officer misconduct.”

In addition, the Stipulation, if and when it is approved by a district judge, would order the City of Minneapolis to do certain things to aid the Department’s current investigation as well as the following for “Building Toward Systemic Change:”

  1. “On or before July 30, 2020, the City Attorney shall prepare a report listing the State of Minnesota Laws that impede public transparency of police data and/or prevent the Mayor and Chief of Police and/or impede civilian oversight from disciplining and terminating police officers who do not adhere to Minneapolis Police Department policies and standards. “
  2. “The City shall prohibit all forms of retaliation, intimidation, coercion, or adverse action against any person, including any City employee, who reports misconduct or cooperates with MDHR’s Commissioner’s charge investigation. Any violation of this provision shall be considered a material breach of the Order and may result in further enforcement action by MDHR.“

12.“All forms of retaliation, interference, intimidation, and coercion against a City employee or any member of the public who reports misconduct or cooperates with MDHR’s Commissioner’s charge investigation, are strictly prohibited. This prohibited conduct includes anyone employed by the City’s Police Department, or a representative of such employee, who intentionally aids, abets, incites, compels, or coerces a person to engage in any of the practices forbidden by this Stipulation and Order.”

  1. “The City shall notify all employees that it is unlawful to intentionally obstruct or prevent any person from complying with the MHRA, MDHR’s Commissioner’s Charge investigation, or any order issued thereunder, or to resist, prevent, impede, or interfere with the Commissioner or any of the Commissioner’s employees or representatives in the performance of their duties.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, ““George Floyd’s service yesterday underscored that justice for George requires more than accountability for the man who killed him — it requires accountability from elected leadership to deep, structural reforms.”

Presumably the Minneapolis Police Union has a right to intervene in this lawsuit and to oppose the proposed Stipulation and Order that would have to be ruled on by the district court.

We will wait to see whether they do so and what happens.

Reactions

These proposed revisions of the MPD Manual, in this blogger’s opinion, should be approved by the court after a hearing.

If and when approved by the court, however, they would only go into effect for subsequent actions by the police. Therefore, they are not relevant to the pending criminal cases about the killing of George Floyd. However, provisions of the existing MPD Manual will be relevant to these cases as discussed below.

Case Against Derek Chauvin[4]

That  Manual states that a “Choke Hold’s is a “deadly force option” by “applying direct pressure on a person’s trachea or airway (front of the neck), blocking or obstructing the airway.” (Manual sec. 5-311(I).)

“Deadly force” is defined in the Manual, quoting Minn. Stat. sec. 609.066, subd. 2 as ““Force which the actor uses with the purpose of causing, or which the actor should reasonably know creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.”(Manual sec. 5-302.).

“Neck restraint,” on the other hand, is stated in the Manual as a “non-deadly force option” and is defined as “compressing one or both sides of a person’s neck with an arm or leg, without applying direct pressure to the trachea or airway (front of the neck). Only sworn employees who have received training from the MPD Training Unit are authorized to use neck restraints.” In addition, the Manual  “authorizes two types of neck restraints: Conscious Neck Restraint and Unconscious Neck Restraint.” (Manual sec. 5-311.)

  • Conscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with intent to control, and not to render the subject unconscious, by only applying light to moderate pressure.” It “may be used against a subject who is actively resisting.”
  • Unconscious Neck Restraint:The subject is placed in a neck restraint with the intention of rendering the person unconscious by applying adequate pressure.” It “shall only be applied in the following circumstances:
  1. On a subject who is exhibiting active aggression, or;
  2. For life saving purposes, or;
  3. On a subject who is exhibiting active resistance in order to gain control of the subject; and if lesser attempts at control have been or would likely be ineffective.”

Criminologists who have seen the videotape of Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd say that Chauvin’s  “knee restraint not only puts dangerous pressure on the back of the neck, but that Mr. Floyd was kept lying on his stomach for too long. Both positions. . .run the risk of cutting off someone’s oxygen supply.”

These criminologist also said that the fact that Mr. Chauvin kept applying pressure when Mr. Floyd was no longer struggling made it appear to be a case of an officer trying to punish a suspect for doing something the police did not like. Philip M. Stinson, a former police officer and now a criminal justice professor at Bowling State University, said it was “a form of ‘street justice,’ . . . bullying [to teach] someone a lesson—next time you will think twice about what you do.”

Case Against Other Officers

The existing MPD Manual, under the heading “Duty To Intervene” states: “ Sworn employees have an obligation to protect the public and other employees.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(A).) And “It shall be the duty of every sworn employee present at any scene where physical force is being applied to either stop or attempt to stop another sworn employee when force is being inappropriately applied or is no longer required.” (Manual sec. 5-303.01(B).)

Conclusion

 Subsequent posts will cover the future court hearing and decision on the proposed changes to the MPD Manual while other posts will analyze the pending criminal cases and developments.

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[1] Navratil,Tentative agreement would ban chokeholds, neck restraints by Minneapolis police, StarTribune (June 5, 2020); Minneapolis to ban the use of chokeholds in response to George Floyd’s death, N.Y. Times (June 5, 2020); Governor Walz, Walz-Flanagan Administration, City of Minneapolis Agree on Immediate Changes to Minneapolis Police Department Policies (June 5, 2020); Chavez, Sanchez & Alonso, Minneapolis City council votes to ban chokeholds one day after George Floyd memorial, cnn.com (June 5, 2020); Collins, Chapman, Martinez & Li, Weekend George Floyd Protests Planned, Seeking Reforms, W.S.J. (June 5, 2020); ‘Layers of accountability’: Mayor Jacob Frey Signs Restraining Order Forcing Immediate Reforms in Mpls. Police Dept., CBS Minnesota (June 5, 2020).

[2] Stipulation and Order [unsigned], State of Minnesota v. City of Minneapolis Police Department, City of Minneapolis (undated2020) (unsigned).

[3] Berkl & Navratil, Minnesota Human Rights Department launches probe into Minneapolis police, StarTribune (June 3, 2020);

Minn. Dep’t Human Rts., Civil Rights Investigation into Minneapolis Police Department (June 3, 3030); Governor Walz, Walz Administration’s Department of Human Rights Files Civil Rights Charge Against Minneapolis Police Department (June 2, 2020).

[4] MacFarquar, In George Floyd’s Death, a Police Technique Results in a Too-Familiar Tragedy, N.Y.Times (May 29, 2020).