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Brooklyn Park P.D. won't send SROs back to schools after Hennepin Co. Att'y Moriarty issues her interpretation of law

Hennepin County Attorney's SRO interpretation prompts some to pull officers from schools
Hennepin County Attorney’s SRO interpretation prompts some to pull officers from schools 02:28

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. -- Brooklyn Park Police says they "will not be sending SROs back" to schools, following a new legal interpretation from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

At issue is a new law about and what type of force school resource officers can use on students, and when. Departments are worried it opened up resource officers to legal trouble.

The controversy appeared to be resolved last week when Attorney General Keith Ellison clarified that SROs are able to use force as long as the force is reasonable. This satisfied the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which thanked leaders for "finding a temporary solution to return SROs back to Minnesota schools."

Still, the MPPOA called for "a legislative solution ... to permanently fix the issue" and renewed their call again for a legislative fix on Friday. Others, including Minnesota House Republicans and some police departments, continued their calls for further clarity on the law, be it by special session or a judge's ruling.

This week, Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty issued her own interpretation of a controversial law regarding use of force by school resource officers, saying in effect that SROs should only be allowed to restrain students if they pose a risk of physical threat to themselves or others.

Just last week, Moriarty's office told WCCO in a statement she does not have the same authority as the AG to issue an opinion on the law.

"The county attorney talks frequently with Hennepin County chiefs and has developed a trusting, open, and transparent relationship with them. They know they can ask her questions directly and seek her guidance, and that the county attorney will be direct and honest in response, even as they recognize we cannot provide their departments with legal advice," Moriarty's office said in a statement on Friday.

Brooklyn Park Police Chief Mark Bruley said he thinks Moriarty's interpretation is accurate - but the crux of the issue is that the statute allows for so many different interpretations.

"You can have five attorneys interpret it five different ways — it shouldn't be that way, right?" he said. "She gave her opinion. It's a sound opinion that's rooted in the facts of the statute the way it's written. Her interpretation make sense. We may not like it. I don't like the opinion, because it's not advantageous for me putting SRO's back into school, but I absolutely think it's accurate and I respect it."

"As the County Attorney concedes, only the Attorney General's opinion is binding under state law. Her interpretation is not," said John Stiles, spokesperson with the Attorney General's office.

WCCO has confirmed that Eagan will have officers back and White Bear Lake is planning on having officers return to classes today. Woodbury will have officers return on Monday. However, it appears it's still up in the air for the state's largest district: Anoka-Hennepin.

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