State’s largest insurer of police updates guidance for SROs, ‘has no intention’ of altering coverage

School resource officer debate continues

School resource officer debate continues

The largest insurer of police departments in Minnesota said, in a statement sent to reporters on Wednesday, that it has no intention of pulling or limiting coverage for school resource officers based on a new law that limits the types of force school district staff and officers contracted with school districts may use on students.

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT), which reportedly provides property and liability coverage for 302 police departments in the state, declined an interview but provided 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS with its updated guidance for law enforcement.

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It suggests, “as a result of recent changes to Minnesota law, and an interpretation of these changes by the Minnesota Attorney General,” that school resource officers only use force of any kind “when necessary to prevent bodily harm or death.”

“The question is, ‘Does this law create additional risk for SROs?’ And the simple answer, which has been provided by the League is, ‘Yes, it does,'” Jeff Potts, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said during a press conference on Wednesday where law enforcement continued to call for a special session to address law concerns.

“This law now requires the school resource officer to observe only with no physical intervention,” added Anoka County Sheriff Brad Wise.

“For instance, just yesterday at one of our neighboring schools, a student was trespassed and was told to leave the school due to their behavior,” Blaine Police Chief Brian Podany said.

The guidance from LMCIT addressed that and other scenarios that law enforcement has said are still left up to question, both in the law and in an August opinion from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

In an “application scenario,” LMCIT gave an example of an expelled student who returns to school. Technically, the school resource officer has the authority to arrest, it said. But “because handcuffing is a form of restraint, [the SRO] may not handcuff [the student] to effect the arrest” unless a threat of bodily harm arises, according to the guidance.

In the end, the SRO “would need to call another officer, who is not an SRO, to handle the arrest.”

“Their interpretation doesn’t comport with the clarity of Minnesota law, in my opinion,” Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said in response to the guidance.

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“I think you’d have to ask them why they’re ignoring this sentence in state law that says that a person who complies with 609.06, Subdivision 1 has met their duty.”

Speaker Hortman was referring to an older use-of-force law, which lays out when any officer has the right to use reasonable force, and that includes “effecting a lawful arrest.”

“That’s the standard that applies to a police officer inside of a school and outside of school,” she said. “Clearly their advice has caused some confusion, but I think the fact that their advice has caused some confusion does not mean that Minnesota law is unclear.”