By Ta’Mara Hill, CVT policy officer
In recent years, policing in Minnesota has repeatedly made global news for instances of racialized policing, excessive/deadly force, violence, impunity and a chasm of distrust between officers and communities. Innovation and improvements are urgently needed. And in the wake of two major reports detailing abuses by the Minneapolis Police Department, calls to action from activists and civil society groups have continued and steadily grow stronger. Due to the tireless efforts of those who believe Minnesota can be better and safer, there are instances where changes are beginning, slowly, to take shape.
One of those places is the movement to revise the standards of conduct required of law enforcement officers. At the Center for Victims of Torture, I manage our Healing, Incarceration & Policing (HIP) Program, through policy advocacy and community engagement, with a heavy focus on legislation and policy in the state of Minnesota. Recently, we’ve joined the efforts of one of our community partners, the Minnesota Justice Research Center (MNJRC), in advocating for changes to the rules and guidelines set forth by the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). The Post Board is the state body that determines requirements and standards for licensing, training and conduct for law enforcement. Currently, the POST Board is considering new rule changes to achieve safer police conduct and greater officer accountability, which would have significant impacts on the communities CVT serves in Minnesota.
Overall, these rule changes have the potential to make our communities safer, decrease police inflicted violence and rebuild the relationship between communities and law enforcement in Minnesota.”
Because we at CVT work with individuals who have survived torture, the vast majority of whom are Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), we know we must have public safety that prioritizes the needs of all of our communities. Whether a person has escaped from torture and persecution in another country, directly experienced police violence or torture in the U.S., or is plagued by fear and trauma from repeated instances of police brutality documented through viral videos, interactions with law enforcement can bring great anxiety, fear and distrust.
There are a few basic changes we can make to policing guidelines, all of which are currently under consideration by the POST Board. First, we need increased cultural representation in police departments; second, we need guaranteed safety during gatherings and protests; and third, police officers must be held to basic societal standards of not being connected to white supremacist, hate, extremist and/or criminal groups. In July, CVT defended the need for these rules changes in the form of public comment to the Minnesota POST Board. Below you’ll find a summary of those comments. The POST Board will hold public hearings on public comments in October of this year. Until then, please stay up to date on the work CVT’s HIP program is doing by joining our program mailing list and the work MNJRC continues to lead on POST Board Rule Changes.
Here is a summary of the three proposed rules and the reasons CVT supports these changes:
Rule 1 (Rule part 6700.1600, subpart 1, item H) would call out any of the following as violations of the POST board standards: support, advocacy or participation in a white supremacist, hate and extremist groups, and criminal gangs (hate groups).
CVT supports this rule because:
2. Involvement in a hate group has a serious and deleterious impact on community trust, which is fundamental to protecting and serving the public.
3. Involvement in a hate group can lead to “Brady-Giglio impairments,” which are defined as actions that draw an officer’s credibility into question (or “impair” that credibility). Participation by an officer in hate groups can be considered this kind of impairment and can limit a prosecutor’s ability to rely on that officer for testimony or evidence in criminal cases. Rules related to Brady-Giglio require that prosecutors disclose evidence that may lead to the impeachment of law enforcement officers, including findings or allegations of bias toward individuals or groups.
4. Without this rule, officers connected to white supremacy or hate/extremist groups will continue to serve communities composed of non-white people, of various nationalities, ethnicities, races and religions. It is reckless and irresponsible to support and allow police officers with oppressive mindsets and weapons to be active in communities occupied by the people their hate is aimed at.
5. White supremacists are a threat to our state and our communities. We cannot allow them to have state sanctioned power.
a. FBI reports and recent congressional hearings have identified white supremacist groups as infiltrating law enforcement.
b. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security identifies white supremacist extremists as the most persistent and lethal threat among domestic violence extremists in the U.S.
c. White supremacist activity in Minnesota exceeds any other type of hate activity, as reported by the American Defamation League (ADL), which monitors antisemitism and bias nationwide.
Rule 2 (Rule part 6700.0700, subpart 1, item A) would allow qualified people to become licensed as Minnesota officers even if they are not yet U.S. citizens, provided that they have the legal ability to work in the U.S.
2. Law enforcement agencies should have the option to make hiring choices that they believe will better serve their departments and reflect the populations of the communities they are active in.
3. Citizenship is not an indicator of morality, performance, skill or allegiance. Anyone who is allowed to work and willing to protect our communities, complete training and follow protocols should be able to act as a police officer.
4. Expanding eligibility allows law enforcement agencies to hire particular groups of non-citizens, such as Dreamers or DACA recipients.
Rule 3 (Rule part 6700.1615) would set standards of behavior during crowd events which law enforcement are required to adopt.
2. Mishandling crowds is dangerous for people in the crowd and police officers. We have seen in our own state that the use of improper crowd control increases violence and worsens/escalates situations. This mistreatment and subsequent escalation was documented in a March 2022 report by Hillard Heintze, commissioned by the City of Minneapolis. The report analyzed responses by Minneapolis departments and agencies from the time of the murder of George Floyd through the subsequent week. Among many findings, the report noted that the Minneapolis Police Department was unprepared to handle the protests that took place.
3. Without a standard of practice, and consistent rules of engagement, people’s rights to protest and assemble are in jeopardy. For example, as documented in the Heintze report, during the Uprising, the Minneapolis Police Department fired rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters, in some cases causing very significant injuries.
4. The required policy is a direct response to a recommendation from the Ensuring Police Excellence and Improving Community Relations Advisory Council (EPEICRAC), a council established by statute in 2020 to, in part, “advance policies and reforms that promote positive interactions between peace officers and the community.”
The proposed rule changes are positive steps toward building community trust in law enforcement, keeping people safe, ensuring police officers can be trusted to serve and protect everyone without bias, and building a police force that reflects our communities in Minnesota. Overall, these rule changes have the potential to make our communities safer, decrease police inflicted violence and rebuild the relationship between communities and law enforcement in Minnesota.