Today, my heart is with the family and loved ones of Daunte Wright.
Our communities are grieving the loss of yet another Black man killed at the hands of police officers, while legislative action addressing the bare minimum continues to be met with resistance from law enforcement groups and Republican members. We cannot normalize waking up to a piling list of names everyday. We need to enact legislative action that holds police officers accountable and serves the justice so many Black men in this country deserve.
The future of public safety is one built through community trust. The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee has had a total of 18 hearings which have included police reform bills, 11 of which occurred this year. While lawmakers passed compromise reforms last year — including a prohibition on “warrior training,” a ban on chokeholds, and requiring the duty to intercede — many critical reforms such as enhanced citizen oversight and strengthening the police officer misconduct database were left off the table.
Some of the proposals that we are pushing forward include a measure to allow local governments to establish civilian oversight councils, a ban on altering, erasing or destroying body-worn camera recordings and withholding footage, prohibiting peace officers from affiliating with white supermacist groups, and funding to community organizations working to prevent crime.
In addition to the above provisions, I am chief author on several important law enforcement reform bills that have been included in the Public Safety omnibus bill. The first, House File 1762, would regulate the use of no-knock warrants. No-knock warrants rose to prominence during the failed “war on drugs”, with the assertion that knocking or ringing a doorbell would allow suspects to destroy evidence before law enforcement could seize it. These warrants have been found to be dangerous to both citizens and law enforcement, and have led to the death of 81 citizens and 13 officers between 2010 and 2016. My language seeks to strike a balance between law enforcement’s need to occasionally move with the element of surprise, and citizens’ rights to reside safely in their homes.
The second bill, House File 440, funds a study to explore the prospect of requiring law enforcement to carry professional liability insurance. This policy would help us to identify “bad apple” officers, who may conduct dangerous, reckless actions, at a very early stage. There have been several studies that suggest that the most dangerous officers are identifiable and relatively rare. A Chicago study found that the worst one percent of officers, as measured by civilian allegations, generate almost five times the number of payouts and over four times the total damage payouts in civil rights litigation. This bill would also protect taxpayers and local governments from being financially on the hook for these bad actors. With the City of Minneapolis’ recent settlement for $27 million, the financial benefits of this policy could not be clearer.
The Public Safety omnibus bill should not be controversial or even partisan. These are measures aiming to protect the precious lives of Minnesotans, not a political debate.