Walz, lawmakers speak to police reform, accountability bills being discussed in the House

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Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, state officials and lawmakers spoke about the numerous police reform and accountability bills that will go before the House, and criticized the Senate's handling of the issue. 

Police reform has been a major topic during the Legislature's special session after the death of George Floyd. 

The governor was joined by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus and Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board Chair Kelly McCarthy.

While opening, Walz rebuked Senate Republicans for the brief hearings that were held on the issue, where witnesses were only given three minutes to testify.

"By holding things up and pushing things down, it exacerbates the problem," Walz said. "So today, I am excited to be here … I am excited for the day that can be historic for the Minnesota House of changing the way we view community safety, changing what accountability looks like and changing the way community feels like they have a voice in that." 

During the press conference, House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Chair Carlos Mariani spoke to the notion of "a few bad apples," when discussing police violence. 

"It's not the apples," Mariani said. "It's the tree. And the tree doesn't have its roots only in Minneapolis, it has sprouted all across our nation. And whether we choose to see it or not, all across our state of Minnesota." 

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He added, "The American people want a new, healthy tree." 

Mariani took time to introduce a package of bills put together by the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, which include the Reclaiming Community Oversight Act, the Reforming Accountability Act and the Reimagining Public Safety Act. 

Like Walz, Mariani called on Senate Republicans to "stop coming small to the table." 

"I call on the Senate to see the tree, to change the system and to join the people who want to begin growing a healthy tree," Mariani said. "Not one that allows fear, hate, racism and anti-blackness to do harm, and then after doing harm manipulate the branches of that tree to hide and scurry away from justice. A system that no longer draws some of the worst attitudes in our society, but only the best is what we want." 

Thursday afternoon, Gazleka responded to Walz and the DFL lawmakers. 

"It shocked me the House hasn't even passed criminal justice reform and we passed five police accountability bills earlier this week," Gazelka said.

He added, "They want to imply we are doing nothing, and that flat out is not true."