[ST. PAUL, MN] – Governor Tim Walz today joined bipartisan leaders in the Minnesota Legislature to call for action among Minnesota Senate Republicans on police reform, following the passage of meaningful police reform legislation in the Minnesota House.
“The accountability we saw last week for George Floyd is the floor – not the ceiling – of what we need to do in Minnesota to advance police reform. True justice comes through real, systemic change to prevent this from happening again,” said Governor Walz. “I applaud the effort in the Minnesota House to advance meaningful legislation that would make Minnesota a leader in effective and fair law enforcement policies, practices, and behaviors. I urge the Republicans in the Minnesota Senate to listen to Minnesotans and take action.”
“As we grapple with the reality of systemic racism in Minnesota and its impact on Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, we have an opportunity in front of us to build a better system of public safety that truly protects all Minnesotans,” said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. “It is our responsibility to listen to Minnesotans, hear the cries of protesters from across the world, and take action. I’m grateful for the work of the Minnesota House, especially our POCI Caucus members – we can get this done.”
“Right now we have a window of time, while the world is watching, to be the leaders that our communities of color need us to be,” said Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent. “We have just over two weeks to pass meaningful public safety reform. We’ve seen how fast the Senate majority can act when they choose to. Just this week, we passed almost $8 million – very quickly – to fund public safety after the Chauvin trial. We need to act with that same urgency to pass police reform, and I urge my Senate Republican colleagues to prioritize this work now.”
“Last week, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a strong Public Safety & Judiciary Budget that included needed police and criminal justice reforms. As we enter the final weeks of the legislative session and budget negotiations, it is essential that significant police accountability legislation is passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Walz,” said House Speaker Melissa Hortman. “We appreciate the law enforcement professionals who help preserve peace and safety for Minnesotans while respecting their constitutional and human rights, but there is a clear need to improve accountability and public trust. Minnesotans are calling for justice and reforms, and we are determined to act.”
“In the House, we’ve developed a thoughtful package of reforms and accountability measures to ensure our public safety systems are based in the values we all share of human rights and human dignity,” said Representative Carlos Mariani, Chair of the House Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee. “This is a pivotal moment for our state, and it’s all of our responsibility to listen to community members who have engaged with us over the past year who want to see a pathway for justice, build trust, and prevent Black lives from being taken from us. It’s time for Senate Republicans to join us in this critical work.”
“It’s going to be up to the Republican Senate how they choose to value Black lives. Will they continue ignoring? Dismissing? Discounting our claims, struggle, and protest? Or will they find common ground, because we already have with these bills,” said Representative Cedrick Frazier. “I fear that this moment may lead to Black lives becoming a political or partisan issue. I hope the Republican Senate doesn’t treat our lives like a bargaining chip. It doesn’t need to be this way.”
“Public safety is perhaps the most important role of government, and many people across the state have lost confidence in our system. I am confident under the leadership of Chairs Mariani and Limmer we can restore faith in our system. My role will be to bring balance to the discussions,” said Representative Tim Miller.
“The work of addressing systemic inequities within our communities and improving our systems of law enforcement requires all of us to work together hand-in-hand. We cannot do it alone; it requires people of all races, genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and political persuasions to work together to find lasting solutions,” said Senator Bobby Joe Champion.
Last summer, Governor Walz signed the Minnesota Police Accountability Act to strengthen transparency and oversight, ban chokeholds, and expand mental health de-escalation. A large number of the proposals included were recommendations from the Deadly Force Encounters Working Group. The diverse group convened by Attorney General Keith Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington — the only initiative of its kind in the country — completed six months of public hearings and listening sessions across Minnesota. Through that process, they put forward 28 recommendations and 33 action steps covering community healing and engagement, prevention and training, investigations and accountability, policy and legal implications, and officer wellness.
This Legislative Session, the Minnesota House has advanced a package of meaningful changes to our police departments and criminal justice system. These changes, supported by Governor Walz, include:
- Reforming the use of no-knock warrants;
- Prohibiting traffic enforcement stops in certain circumstances of minor violations;
- Strengthening civilian oversight of police departments;
- Creating a more robust POST Board to regulate and train professional peace officers;
- Working toward ending police-only responses to mental health crisis calls; and
- Investing in community healing and support families of those impacted by deadly force encounters with police.
Minnesota’s COVID-19 Recovery Budget, the Governor’s biennial budget recommendation to the Legislature, includes funding for community healing, trauma services and burial costs for those impacted by police encounters, creating a more robust POST Board, and a grant program to promote innovations in community safety, including co-responders models.