New rules give POST Board authority to revoke peace officer licenses prior to conviction
As of Tuesday, the state regulatory authority that licenses police officers in Minnesota can later revoke those licenses in cases of misconduct without waiting for the courts to act.
It was a point of contention three years ago when former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was arrested for the murder of George Floyd. The Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board that issued his license couldn’t take it away until he was convicted.
It’s a sticking point for a couple of statewide law enforcement labor unions in a set of conduct standards that, after years of discussion, went into effect Tuesday.
“It’s really a perfect storm of things that were happening,” POST Board executive director Erik Misselt said about why the changes were made. “A recognition the rules were outdated and also recognition that, you know, the POST Board minimally should be able to do things that other licensing boards had been doing for years.”
Prior to Tuesday, the effective date of the new state standards of conduct for law enforcement officers, the POST Board couldn’t later revoke officer licenses until they were convicted of a crime.
“Previously, if it didn’t go to a criminal court, then all bets were off,” Misselt said.
And in some cases — “very rare,” Misselt emphasized — officers plead guilty to a lesser charge in a criminal case “because they know that moves it out of the licensing or the certification organization’s jurisdiction,” he said.
“This closes that loophole.”
Now, if an officer abuses their authority under state standards, they would have to answer to the POST Board, regardless of whether they end up being arrested or convicted.
The change was “certainly influenced” by the inability of the POST Board to revoke Chauvin’s license in 2020 “and the expectations that the public had as to what the board can and cannot do,” Misselt said.
Chauvin was in jail, not policing the streets while awaiting trial for Floyd’s murder, and he had been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. Had he instead been released ahead of the trial, technically, as a licensed officer, he could’ve been hired by another law enforcement agency.
Law Enforcement Labor Services union counsel Mark Schneider called the rules “vague and ambiguous” in a statement Tuesday and said that removing an officer’s license “for conduct that did not support criminal charges or agency discipline is unreasonable.”
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association also confirmed its opposition to the rule change “that expands the authority of the POST Board,” a spokesperson wrote in an email Tuesday.
Before revoking a license, the POST Board has to hold an administrative hearing where a case has to be made to take away the said license. That happens in front of an administrative law judge where an accused officer has the right to lawyers and witnesses as they would in court, Misselt explained.
“The very same things you see in a criminal case, except it’s in front of an administrative law judge,” Misselt said.
The standard of proof is lower in these administrative hearings compared to “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal court.
“For us, it’s a ‘preponderance of the evidence,'” Misselt said. “So, for whatever reason, it still may be an egregious conduct, but just maybe not to the extent that it was able to prove in criminal court or, again, like a plea deal was done. And this allows the board, as representatives of the licensing and regulatory agency, to take a second look at it.”
There’s a list of conduct violations that can result in discipline by the POST Board, and some were added to the new standards. For example, the POST Board now has authority over cases of “excessive” or “unreasonable” force. Previously, the board could only act in cases of “unauthorized use of deadly force.”