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Minnesota House Passes Public Safety Deal Without Some DFL Police Accountability Demands

ST. PAUL (WCCO) -- A group of DFL lawmakers vowed to amend a public safety budget deal to include more police accountability measures left out of a final deal between leaders. But on Tuesday, they dropped their push for some of those provisions and accepted fewer, more narrow changes, paving the way for the bill to pass in time to keep government services operating.

The DFL-controlled House on Tuesday amended the bill to allow "sign and release" warrants for certain low-level offenses, which means a person would sign a notice of the need to appear in court and a police officer would let him or her go under limited circumstances. The policy was drafted following the death of Daunte Wright, who was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

But that change reflects only one of the provisions the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus on Monday vowed to put back into the bill. The DFL lawmakers said the deal struck by legislative leaders, which left out many police reform measures supported by Democrats, falls drastically short of what's needed to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions.

The bill passed Tuesday night on 75-59 vote.

"We missed the moment," said. Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, who authored many police accountability bills that didn't make the final cut. "The world has been watching us for almost two years. And I think they were hoping for us to shine a light through this darkness—a pandemic, police brutality, the murder of George Floyd, the killing of Daunte Wright, the killing of Philando Castile and others.

"That is how people view our state."

On Tuesday, DFL lawmakers dropped an amendment to require body camera video to be released to families within 48 hours after someone is killed by police and another that would limit law enforcement stops for certain minor traffic violations in an effort to curb pretextual stops.

"While you may think this is the end of police accountability or this is the end of police accountability efforts—this year is truly only the beginning," said. Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul.

Thompson praised Gov. Tim Walz's executive actions he announced Monday, which include reviewing the POST Board's data and requiring it create a public database and requiring state law enforcement agencies to release body camera video to families within five days of a police killing.

The public safety budget bill funds the state's court system, prisons and law enforcements and includes regulations of no-knock warrants and money for body camera video for the Minnesota State Patrol, among other provisions. It's a piece of the $52 billion two-year budget that needs to pass the legislature by tomorrow night.

The GOP-led Senate also discussed the bill Tuesday ahead of the House vote. Republicans have said they reject any policies they perceive as "anti-police" and note that they had to sacrifice some of their priorities for the sake of brokering a deal with the DFL-controlled House.

"It's been a rather difficult process to arrive at a common point, but I believe we have as far as we can go," Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, who was the lead on the bill in the Senate, said Tuesday.

The House did accept a GOP amendment, though, that would make it a misdemeanor to publicly publish a police officer's address online. That was a priority for Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Monday.

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