Tags: George Floyd Protests | Law Enforcement | minnesota | tim walz | police | reform | chokeholds

Minnesota Gov Signs Police Reform, Ban on Floyd-Style Chokeholds

tim walz speaks during a campaign rally
Minnesota Democrat Gov. Tim Walz (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 23 July 2020 07:15 PM

Minnesota's police accountability reform bill, which bans police chokeholds like the one used on the late George Floyd, has been signed into law by Minnesota Democrat Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday.

The Minnesota Police Accountability Act will also require officers to intervene if a fellow officer is using excessive force, bans "warrior-style" training for police, and gives the Minnesota attorney general jurisdiction over the prosecution of police-involved deaths, Axios reported.

"This bipartisan piece of legislation moves us toward a critical step towards criminal justice reform," Walz said. "These critical reforms are long overdue. They are meant to strengthen transparency and community oversight."

The measure also creates a new advisory council for the state board that licenses officers, makes changes in arbitration rules affecting police unions and requires more training on dealing with people with mental health issues and autism.

The bill passed after nearly two months of difficult negotiations that followed Floyd's death May 25 and the ensuing unrest that spread around the world over police brutality and racism. Floyd, who was Black, was killed when a white officer held his knee to Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he was handcuffed and restrained by three other officers holding him down.

Members of the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus led the policing reform efforts at the Capitol, speaking with community members and law enforcement before drafting the legislation they introduced last month. POCI Caucus member and House public safety committee chairman Rep. Carlos Mariani said the legislation is the first step in preventing what happened to Floyd and Philando Castile, who was killed by a police officer in a St. Paul suburb four years ago.

"The construction of this law and its passage is a powerful acknowledgment of our collective failure in the past, of our failure to (Floyd and Castile) and countless others who have been wrongfully harmed at the hands of peace officers," Mariani said. "We have to start with that acknowledgment, otherwise we'll continue to do what we've always done."

Discussions on police accountability legislation dominated the June special session a few weeks after Floyd's death, but lawmakers were not able to reach a deal on which reforms to include in the bill. Going into this month's special session, Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said restoration of felon voting rights and giving the Minnesota Attorney General's office primary jurisdiction over prosecuting police officers were two issues that were taken off the table in negotiations with the GOP-controlled Senate.

Michelle Gross, president of local advocacy group Communities United Against Police Brutality, called the reforms in the bill "low hanging fruit" and said the legislation is not nearly as comprehensive as the group had hoped.

"The autism training we thought was an important thing to have . . . and we also like the fact that it bans fear-based training (which) is something we've been working on for quite a long time now," she said. "But so much of what we wanted was not even given a second glance."

Gross' group, along with other local advocacy organizations, introduced eight policing reform bills during the special session — two of which were included in the package passed earlier this week. The legislation includes requiring police carry their own liability insurance, ending the statute of limitations for a wrongful death civil suit and allowing families of those killed by police to see body camera footage 48 hours after their death. POCI Caucus members at the news conference Thursday pointed to the statute of limitations issue as a disappointment when it failed to materialize in the final package.

Walz is expected to call the legislature back to the Capitol in August to extend his peacetime emergency powers as the coronavirus pandemic continues indefinitely. Gross said they will be back with more reforms to prevent lawmakers from moving on from police reform — a process that she said is far from over.

"For every special session that they might have, we will be there demanding change," she said. "And once the regular session starts next year, we will be there again, with our bills, demanding change."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Politics
Minnesota's police accountability reform bill, which bans police chokeholds like the one used on the late George Floyd, has been signed into law by Minnesota Democrat Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday.
minnesota, tim walz, police, reform, chokeholds, minneapolis
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2020-15-23
Thursday, 23 July 2020 07:15 PM
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