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Minnesota Legislature

Real officer or not

Published (3/6/2009)
By Mike Cook
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A person attempting to perform an act reserved for licensed peace officers had best be one.

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), HF180 would make it a gross misdemeanor for a person to be convicted more than once for misrepresenting themselves as a peace officer. A first-time offense is a misdemeanor.

The bill would also make it a misdemeanor for a peace officer to knowingly allow a person to represent themselves as a peace officer. The bill is supported by the Board of Peace Officers Standards and Training, the Minnesota Police & Peace Officers Association and the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association.

“We want to make sure that our sheriffs and chiefs of police understand that only a licensed police officer can perform police business,” Paymar said.

“Part of the motivation for this bill was a situation that came about in my county where the Ramsey County sheriff hired a non-licensed police officer and had him assigned to the special investigation unit, where he was responsible to do police work. This individual was a friend of the sheriff, who admitted he hired this individual who was a public information officer and assigned him to this investigation unit. … The individual has since been convicted of stealing money.”

Paymar said the potential liability to the county had the person fired a weapon would have been “monumental.”

The bill would also permit a detention officer to carry a weapon if they are employed by the local sheriff’s office.

“Things have changed over the years, and sheriffs’ offices oftentimes use what’s similar to a corrections officer in the prisons,” Paymar said. “A detention officer wouldn’t actually be a licensed police officer, but they are allowed to carry weapons.”

Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder) expressed concern about someone handling a firearm without specialized training. Paymar said he’d work with Cornish to address his concern.

The bill was held over March 3 by the House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee for possible inclusion in its omnibus bill. A companion, SF413, sponsored by Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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