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Have Minnesota's Police Reform Efforts Made An Impact?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- You hear about it almost every day: the debate about police reform in the aftermath of George Floyd's death and other incidents involving police that have prompted protests.

And while proposals are being considered now at both the federal and state level, some far-reaching changes to policing have been enacted by both the Minnesota legislature and individual communities.

But have they had an impact? Esme Murphy takes a look.

The death of Floyd was so shocking it prompted the Minnesota Legislature, known for its paralysis, to actually do something. Last July it passed the Police Accountability Act of 2020. It includes a ban on chokeholds, arbitration reform, requiring a duty to intervene, as well as autism and mental health training. Its impact depends on who you talk to.

"There are still lots of egregious things happening on the streets that impact the Black community, other communities of color and particularly Black youth and there hasn't yet been any real accountability," activist and attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong said.

We asked Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy if she thought the reforms had made any impact.

"Yes, it has. I think policing in Minnesota is better off for the reforms that we have passed," she said.

McCarthy is also the chair of the Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training Board.

She points to more departments adopting a training program created by New Orleans police called EPIC that teaches police officers how to actually intervene when a fellow officer is using unreasonable force.

"It just provides a framework for officers to be able to intervene with one another that doesn't make you lose face in front or the people you serve," she said.

For Levy Armstrong, the most significant reforms are the ones enacted by Brooklyn Center after Daunte Wright's death. They include unarmed officers conducting traffic stops and barring immediate arrests for minor charges. And she believes the biggest reform impact may come from the testimony of high-ranking Minneapolis police officers, including the chief, against Derek Chauvin.

"It was a positive thing to see them actually testifying and calling out the egregious conduct of Derek Chauvin," she said.

McCarthy agrees.

"Do police officers feel that this talk of reform is anti-cop or is it anti-bad cop? How are they feeling?" WCCO asked her.

"That's a great question and I think that's a question of leadership," she said. "If you do a great job and you treat the public the way that we expect you to, this is the best job in the world."

The legislature is expected to try and come to an agreement on another package of reforms in next month's special session.

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