Minnesota House committee lays out police reform proposals in special session hearing

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State representatives are considering proposals to change policing in Minnesota.

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division met for seven hours Saturday to hear a package of bills aimed at reimagining public safety and holding officers accountable.

Many members of the public also took part in the conversation.

"We are afraid. We are afraid out here in the community," said Toshira Garroway during public comment. "How can you reconcile without repairing what you broke in the community? You failed these families here in Minnesota."

The hearing comes nearly three weeks after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody.

Read KSTP’s full George Floyd coverage

DFL lawmakers said reform is a top priority for the special session.

The package in the House includes 19 proposals, from a statewide ban on chokeholds to requiring that officers have a "duty to intercede" if another officer is using unreasonable force. They are also looking at launching a community-led policing office and reforming how officers are investigated and disciplined.

"Minnesotans across the state are ready for something different," said JaNae Bates of ISAIAH, a faith-based organization fighting for racial and economic equity in the state of Minnesota.

Many of the bills arose from recommendations of the Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters Working Group, chaired by Attorney General Keith Ellison and Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington.

Walz, legislative leaders announce priorities for special session

While discussing the package of bills, lawmakers heard pleas from the public to overhaul the current system.

"Whenever there is a tree that produces apples and continuously produces bad apples, not only do you get rid of the apples, you get rid of the tree," said Protea Toles.

"Our current system of oversight is damaging. It’s actively damaging our attempts to create better relationships between law enforcement and community," added Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis.

Many members of the public also expressed sadness and frustration, saying people of color are approached differently by police.

"Extend that olive branch and do things that will bring comfort in our community. We don’t want to always be met with such force," said Valerie Castile. Her son, Philando Castile, was shot and killed by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez in July 2016. Yanez was charged but later acquitted.

Gov. Tim Walz has said policing reforms are desperately needed.

"These bills are only a start, but let’s start," said Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul. "Let’s lean in, let’s listen and let’s be bold."

Votes on amendments and bills will be taken during a House committee hearing on Monday.

In the Senate, Republicans are expected to pass a bill banning chokeholds and put extra funding to bias and deescalation training, but they want to study the other measures and take action when the new session starts in January.

Democrats have said they prefer to stay now and keep working until everything gets done.