Pro-law enforcement lobbies and police unions are speaking out against newly proposed rules that would ban police officers from participating in white supremacy and other hate groups.
The Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (POST) was met with pushback after proposing sweeping changes to minimum licensure and standards of conduct for law enforcement officers.
But representatives for various law enforcement agencies have criticized the new standards as “vague” and accuse the POST board of overstepping its authority.
Fridley Police Chief Brian Weierke, the president of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, wants a “clear definition” of the rule banning officer involvement in extremist groups to prevent so-called “weaponization” of the provision.
In April, the state’s police licensing board approved rules that would give the board the power to take problem cops off the streets, regardless if they’ve been convicted of a crime or have been subjected to discipline by their superiors.
“The rule change would allow the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, or POST Board, to take disciplinary action for a broader range of misconduct. The board could take action if it found an officer used excessive force or engaged in driving under the influence, domestic abuse, assault, felony drug crimes, soliciting prostitutes or theft — even if they weren’t convicted of the crimes,” according to Minnesota Reformer.
The proposed changes came in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by convicted murderer and ex-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
The George Floyd killing renewed interest in the board’s role in oversight of police misconduct, and expanding its statutory and regulatory functions. This was prompted, in part, by a 2020 FBI report warning of the infiltration of law enforcement agencies with violent white supremacist ideologies – uncovering hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials participating in racist, nativist, and sexist social media activity, which demonstrates that overt bias is far too common, according to the FBI research.
In June 2020, GQ interviewed a colleague of Chauvin’s – speaking on condition of anonymity – who told journalists that she was “tired,” and wanted change.
“I want better for my department and I wish it didn’t take the murder of George Floyd for this national conversation on police reform to be had.”
The POST Board can strip an officer of his or her license if they’re convicted of felonies, gross misdemeanors, and some misdemeanors or if they lie or cheat on a board test, lie to the board, commit sexual assault or harassment, or use unjustified deadly force, Minnesota Reformer wrote.
Brian Peters, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association – which represents 10,000 public safety officials – said that over 90% of group members surveyed voiced concerns about the new rules.
This includes the requirement that applicants disclose any conduct relating to a Brady-Giglio disclosure, which mandates prosecutors hand over exculpatory evidence to the defense and maintains that they are constitutionally bound to include whether a police officer testifying on a case has been previously disciplined or proven to be less than truthful.
According to Minnesota Reformer, Richard Hodsdon, the general counsel to the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, says he’s concerned application of Brady-Giglio could heighten police officer shortages, by disqualifying applicants.
“There are…thousands of police officers in this country who are on a so-called Brady-Gigliolist and still testify in court every day, who do their jobs effectively and very competently,” he said.
The POST Board overwhelmingly passed the overhaul with a majority 9-3 vote.
Elliott Butay, a criminal justice coordinator for National Alliance on Mental Illness for Minnesota, served as an advisor to the board and pushed back on criticism that it’s an attempt to diminish the effectiveness of law enforcement officials – while also reminding the public that the Minneapolis Police Department is under federal investigation for racist policing practices.
“We are not trying to play ‘gotcha’ with cops,” Butay told Minnesota Reformer. “We’re not here because the community has just said that we’d like to get rid of cops. We’re here because we all watched a Black man die at the hands of a white officer who had a record of aggression and use of force misconduct, and it was not dealt with with the channels that we have now.”
A legal review of the POST Board’s practices will be conducted in the coming months. Two administrative law judges with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings will be deciding on the oversight group’s authority.
Jamael Lundy, a former staffer to the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee, said after 50 years of inaction on police accountability, the proposed rules are a “major step forward.”
Original reporting by Deena Winter at The Minnesota Reformer.
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