Updated: May 12, 2021 10:51 PM
Created: May 12, 2021 10:37 PM
Gov. Tim Walz is pushing for action on police reform and accountability as the regular Legislative session winds down. A coalition of business and faith leaders joined him on Wednesday to call for Senate Republicans to pass the legislation.
Changes to policing have become a central legislative issue in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright.
“We stand here at this moment because we need change and the Legislature is in a position to take meaningful action,” said Rev. Alfred Babington-Johnson, speaking on behalf of His Works United. “These past 14 months have removed the smoke screens and false assertions about the way African American people are dealt with in the justice system.”
Babington-Johnson listed several changes to state law he’d like to see passed before the end of the session.
“We stand in agreement with seasoned warriors that earned their stripes in the modern civil rights movement to call for an end to qualified immunity,” he said. “We stand in common cause with young activists to call for an independent investigation into critical incidents. We stand with civic leaders and hourly workers calling for an end to the statute of limitations for wrongful deaths. We stand with the teachers and coaches and block club leaders to call for an end to police only response to mental health crisis calls.”
He also voiced support for a provision in the House $2.7 billion omnibus safety bill, which would require body camera footage to be shown to the family of a person killed by police within 48 hours of the incident.
The House bill would also limit when no-knock search warrants can be used and limit when an officer can stop drivers for petty misdemeanor infractions.
“We're supportive of this package in moving in its entirety, and there's no reason at this point in time to negotiate off that position,” Walz said.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked Walz what he sees as the top priority for police reform legislation as negotiations continue. He said the community leaders laid out a clear path.
“I would say first and foremost start picking off things we all agree on," he said. "You shouldn’t die over a $2 fine. You shouldn’t be stopped for something you could simply be sent a ticket in the mail for, like your tabs. And then there's the big things, the issue of qualified immunity.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in April, “We’re not going to remove qualified immunity".
The Republican-controlled Senate passed a different public safety bill last month, which did not include policy reform.
Lawmakers from both sides are now trying to find common ground in the conference committee.
“I am hopeful we can get something done by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday and we will not have to move into a special session,” said Rep. Cedric Frazier, DFL-New Hope. “We have some more committee meetings we have scheduled for the rest of this week.”
During one session last week, Republican lawmakers raised concerns about certain proposals, including the possibility of changes to traffic stops.
“We talk about community policing and that's a great place to do it, it’s also a dangerous place to approach and I understand that. I did it for years,” said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. “I’m wondering how many guns we would actually miss and probably foil crime, if you will, by finding that or how many drug investigations would go on the wayside.”
Rep. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, sent 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS a statement on Wednesday, saying, “In the midst of a terrible increase of crime, the conference committee is reviewing offers to understand how they will impact the safety of all Minnesotans. The laws we pass must have the support and consensus of the entire state.
Frazier recognized his colleagues have questions, identifying the 48-hour body camera release and no-knock warrant provisions as holdups. He said he's hopeful Senate Republicans will present an offer.
“We've answered those questions during the past almost week now,” he said. “We have also provided them an offer of the things they actually agree upon and things that are bills in the House and bills in the Senate that we agree upon. They did send us correspondence they were taking the time to look through the offers that we had provided them, so I am going to take them at their word until they prove me wrong.”
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