State lawmakers find common ground with bill to clarify SRO use-of-force standards

State lawmakers find common ground with bill to clarify SRO use-of-force standards

State lawmakers find common ground with bill to clarify SRO use-of-force standards

One of the first big topics expected at the start of the 2024 Minnesota Legislative Session next week created some consensus from lawmakers across the aisle.

DFL lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a bill to clarify the use-of-force standards for school resource officers. It was a controversial topic starting last summer, that led to more than 30 law enforcement agencies pulling SROs from schools at one point.

RELATED: Law enforcement again call for special session on SRO law | As students return to school, discussions about school resource officer law continue

The introduction of the new legislation was a change up, seemingly a compromise, from Democratic lawmakers, many of whom have stood by the original 2023 law change meant to limit officers’ ability to use certain forms of restraint against kids in school.

The law change was directed at school employees and school resource officers. The latter created confusion among law enforcement over how officers could respond to unruly conduct on school grounds.

The newly introduced bill would strike school resource officers from the existing restraint policy and instead, require the creation of a brand new policy specifically for school resource officers.

Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL — Shoreview, on Wednesday called it “a more comprehensive approach.”

“We’re clarifying that SROs are following the law enforcement standards. Most SROs are peace officers and that’s what they’re trained under those use-of-force standards under Chapter 609.06,” Moller continued. “So we’re saying yes, those standards apply. Plus, if you’re going to be with our kids, we want to make sure that you have the right training, and that you’ve got a policy in place.”

If the bill becomes law as is, the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST Board) would be tasked with creating a model policy by mid-2025.

Then, by the end of next year, every law enforcement agency with​ an SRO program would have to implement a policy that is “identical” or at least “substantially similar.” The legislation would also require school resource officers to undergo additional training starting next January.

“That will be free to law enforcement who are SROs to utilize those trainings,” Moller said.

Asked to react to the bill, Sen. Zach Duckworth, R — Lakeville, said, “The fact that we’ve seen our colleagues across the aisle go from, ‘This doesn’t need a fix it all,’ to now introducing a bill with some proposed fixes, I think is a good sign that we’re hopefully on the right track.”

Speaking to the language itself, he said, “Some aspects of it, at first glance, seem to be kind of common sense,” adding that he’s ready to start workshopping it in committee with law enforcement at the table.

“One of the biggest issues that we had last time regarding this law is, it wasn’t brought forward in a public safety committee to get feedback from our professionals in law enforcement, our police officers or school resource officers,” Duckworth continued. “We still need to hear from them to make sure that this bill truly solves the underlying problems that they identified.”

Between 12 and 15 law enforcement agencies have not returned SROs to schools as of this report, according to Duckworth.

The bill is scheduled for a public hearing on the first day of the legislative session on Monday.

A spokesperson for the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association as of Wednesday evening said the agency was still reviewing the bill with its attorneys and law enforcement.

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association sent the following statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS:

“Jeff Potts, our Executive Director, has been in meetings with legislators and continues to meet and discuss this bill. Until he has a better grasp on what the final bill version and possible amendments will look like, he will not be able to speak publicly. We hope to have more information after the first hearings occur next week.”