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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL)

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April 14: Public Safety Legislation Update

Wednesday, April 14, 2021
 

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Dear Neighbors,

My heart goes out to the family of Daunte Wright and the Brooklyn Center community. As a legislator, I am committed to finding a path forward through policies that create greater trust, transparency, and accountability between law enforcement and the public.

The Public Safety omnibus bill contains many such policies, which I don't think should be controversial or even partisan. For example, our bill contains:

  • Rep. Aisha Gomez's bill (HF 640), which expands civilian oversight of law enforcement and creates more communication between the public and law enforcement. 
  • Another example is Rep. Athena Hollins' bill (HF 1762regulating no-knock search warrants. During our hearing of this bill, there was general consensus on the larger policy, even if we disagree somewhat on the specifics. 
  • A number of measures propose greater oversight, such as Rep. Cedrick Frazier's bill (HF 1374), which requires chief law enforcement officers to report police misconduct to the POST Board. 
  • Rep. Eric Lucero's bill (HF 464), which requires police officers on duty to report excessive force incidents to chief law enforcement officers. Notably, this last bill was authored by a Republican and has as its two co-authors the DFL Chair and Vice-Chair of the Public Safety Committee. 

I could provide many more examples of the sound, measured policies in this bill, but I'll round things out with Chair Carlos Mariani's bill (HF 2433), which defines public safety as “reducing or preventing crime while maintaining the basic rights, freedoms, and privileges that belong to every person including the right to dignity, fairness, equality, respect, and freedom from discrimination.” This is a beautiful statement and I believe it is one with which all members of the community can agree is the ideal we should aspire to as a society. 

At the end of the day, all of the reforms in the Public Safety omnibus bill have this same end goal, as should we as a society. This shouldn't be partisan. This shouldn't be controversial. The DFL and Republican lawmakers and the law enforcement community need to find a path forward to build trust and address the lack of accountability and justice faced by so many people of color. 

I hope this is the year Gov. Walz signs into law the meaningful reforms that are already drafted, debated, and passed out of the Public Safety committee to be sent to the House floor for a vote. I realize there are many challenges this legislation faces before it gets to the Governor's desk, but we've taken a strong first step in the right direction.

Leading Voices on Public Safety in Brooklyn Center

This week, Rep. Samantha Vang, Chair of the POCI Caucus and DFL House representative in Brooklyn Center, gave a speech on the house floor to address the events of April 11th that resulted in the killing of Daunte Wright. You can watch the video footage of her speech here. 

Yesterday, during a press conference, Rep. Vang and Rep. Frazier, the leading voices on House public safety and reform, especially in the Brooklyn Center area, released the following statements:

“While our community is in pain, grieving the loss of yet another Black man in Minnesota, law enforcement groups and so many others across the aisle are playing politics. We’ve held dozens of hearings over the course of the session that were met with resistance and dismissiveness from law enforcement groups and Republican members in both the Senate and the House,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL - New Hope), Vice Chair of the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee. “The people of Minnesota deserve and demand a future where community trust is sacred, police officers are held accountable for misconduct, and justice is served.”  

“We are once again dealing with the trauma of the killing of a Black man by police. It feels like we are taking one step forward, and two steps back,” said Rep. Vang, Chair of the POCI Caucus (DFL - Brooklyn Center). “My city is hurting to see a beloved member of our community killed so recklessly as we are left with an occupied city that is damaged nearly beyond recognition. We cannot keep doing the same things and expect a different result, we must do better to ensure justice for victims and peace for our future.”

More on the 2021 Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Budget Bill

Last week, House DFL lawmakers discussed their 2021 Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform budget bill. The legislation invests in law enforcement, improves police accountability, and advocates for victims. 

Minnesota is in urgent need of an effective and comprehensive public safety initiative that looks out for community members of all backgrounds. Creating greater law enforcement accountability provisions and investing in the correction of systems in need of reform is a public health issue. We need to 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.

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.

The Public Safety budget bill is far-reaching and thoughtful. It simultaneously funds safety measures and crafts laws that center victims, while also elevating policies that advance a relationship of trust between law enforcement and the public.


You can stay up to date on our work for the 2021 Legislative Session by subscribing to these legislative updates and “liking” my official Facebook page. For any questions you have on the resources available to our community or our work in the Minnesota House, you can reach me at rep.sandra.feist@house.mn or leave a voicemail at (651) 296-4331. I look forward to hearing from you.

In Solidarity, 

Sandra Feist

Minnesota State representative (House District 41B)

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