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Lawmakers and others attended the ceremony at which Gov. Tim Walz signed the police accountability bill.  (Photo: Office of the Governor)
Lawmakers and others attended the ceremony at which Gov. Tim Walz signed the police accountability bill. (Photo: Office of the Governor)

Bar Buzz: Police reform legislation signed

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday signed the police accountability bill passed by the legislature earlier in the week.

“This bipartisan piece of legislation moves us a critical step towards criminal justice reform,” Walz said just before signing the bill Thursday. “These critical reforms are long overdue.”

The compromise bill is considerably watered down from the sweeping package that members of the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus wrote for the DFL-led House during this summer’s first special session.

The legislation foundered during the first special session after negotiations to reconcile the House package with a much smaller Senate bill collapsed. However, work continued during the weeks between special sessions, resulting in the compromise bill signed Thursday.

Among its provisions, the bill includes a ban on warrior-style training, restrictions on chokeholds and police arbitration reform. It also requires officers to intervene and report when they witness excessive use of force, increases membership on the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board and rewrites statewide POST Board use-of-force policy, among other provisions.

Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, is chair of POCI Caucus who authored the House bill’s use-of-force and chokehold ban. At the bill-signing ceremony, she pledged that work will continue to pass measures excluded from the final bill.

In particular, she said, she will keep working to pass legislation that tolls the statute of limitations on wrongful death suits against police departments. Advocates have accused departments of dragging out internal investigations, delaying discovery until time runs out for surviving family members to file suit.

“Whether they win, whether they lose, it’s not the point,” Moran said. “They deserve to have their voices heard in this process.”

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, the House Public Safety chair and bill’s lead Democratic negotiator, said the new set of law is just the first step toward a transformed public safety system.

“There will be more legislation to come,” he said.

In addition to House File 1, the governor on Thursday signed Senate File 4, which addresses the a driver’s license testing backlog by prohibiting driver education schools from holding standing appointments at Department of Vehicle Services locations. It also allows for online testing in some settings.

On July 20, the Minnesota House passed House Resolution 1 by an 82-40 vote. The measure, authored by Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, does not require the governor’s signature.

The vote creates a select House committee to recommend legislation and ensure that “House legislative efforts are analyzed through an intersectional race equity lens.”

A third summertime special session would be automatically triggered if the governor once again extends the COVID-19 peacetime emergency next month. That eventuality is all but guaranteed in mid-August.

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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