Today, House DFL lawmakers discussed their 2021 Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform budget bill. The legislation invests in law enforcement, improves police accountability, and listens to the victims of sex crimes.
“Every person deserves to live with human dignity in their community. To deliver on this promise, we have the responsibility to ensure our systems treat all Minnesotans with fairness and respect, while delivering justice,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL – Saint Paul), chair of the House Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee. “In the midst of the Derek Chauvin trial, with the eyes of the world once again upon our state, it’s incumbent upon all of us to listen to Minnesotans and deliver the change they’re seeking so they can experience true public safety, no matter where they live or what they look like. Our work is inspired by the diverse citizens who are stepping up to be part of making communities safe, from multi-racial neighborhood based intervention work to advocates for juveniles and vulnerable adults. We have the ability to deliver critical funding while enacting reforms Minnesotans are counting on, and this bill does exactly that.”
“Minnesota is ready for an effective and comprehensive public safety initiative that looks out for community members of all backgrounds. Holding law enforcement accountable and investing in the correction of systems in need of reform is a public health issue," said Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL - New Hope), Vice Chair of the committee. “Let’s make sure we deliver on the promises we made to keep Minnesotans safe and respond with urgency.”
The legislation contains significant new investments in tools for law enforcement, including $10 million for local police to issue body-worn cameras, reform training, and update policy manuals. While including these important investments, it also builds upon the work of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act, enacted in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd, to further enhance accountability. The bill also strengthens the police officer misconduct database to build a more effective early warning intervention system to keep bad officers off the streets. It also allows local units of government to establish civilian oversight councils and funds community organizations working to prevent crime in their communities while addressing the need for community healing after a traumatic event. To prevent white supremacist causes from infiltrating law enforcement, the bill prohibits peace officers from associating with such hateful, intimidating, and often violent groups.
"It is a known fact that people died by the hands of police in far too many cases like George Floyd’s. We need to rebuild trust within our communities," said Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL - Brooklyn Center), chair of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus. "Accountability leads to better practices and these bills will improve public safety for all no matter who we are and what we look like.”
Through the inclusion of the “Clean Slate Act,” the legislation gives many Minnesotans a second chance following incarceration. The measure would automatically expunge eligible low-level offenses after successfully completing a diversion program or a certain period of time without committing a new crime. It also includes the Minnesota Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Act, allowing those in prison to earn early release by successfully completing goals identified in their Individualized Rehabilitation Plan, as well as other critical probation reforms that prioritize rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration.
The bill includes a series of updates to Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct code to address contradictions, loopholes, and other shortcomings which create barriers for survivors to receive justice. One such example closes the “voluntary intoxication” loophole, which a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision that when prosecuting a sexual assault case, “mentally incapacitated” doesn’t include a person who became intoxicated after voluntarily consuming alcohol. It also prevents sexual extortion and includes a series of measures to protect children, among other changes recommended by a survivor-led working group.
“Minnesotans deserve safe communities and a fair justice system, no matter where we live or what we look like," said Speaker Melissa Hortman. "Our budget works to improve a criminal justice system that fails too many victims of sexual assault and lacks sufficient accountability measures. The Minnesota House DFL budget funds law enforcement while continuing our work to increase accountability. We are grateful to law enforcement professionals who help preserve peace and safety for Minnesotans while respecting their constitutional and human rights, and we remain committed to public safety for all.”
“Last year, a police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, killing him and sparking a global movement for reforms and accountability,” said Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “We failed George Floyd that day, and we can never return to a system that allows this shocking loss of life and disregard for humanity to happen over and over. House Democrats are determined to deliver the kind of public safety and criminal justice reform Minnesotans actually want. Every Minnesotan deserves to be safe at home, at work, and in their community.”
The committee will vote on the legislation during its hearing this afternoon at 1 p.m. More information, including documents from the hearing, are available on the committee webpage. Live and archived video of today’s press conference and committee hearing can be found on House Public Information Services’ YouTube channel.