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Minnesota Lawmakers Pass Historic Police Reform Bill: 'This Is Only The Beginning'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota lawmakers passed a historic bill overnight reforming police departments -- eight weeks to the hour that George Floyd died.

The bill contains 15 provisions, meaning that lawmakers reached a compromise on the reform package.

The starting point was a common ground with four provisions, which the Minnesota Senate passed in the last special session. While the House also wanted those four provisions, lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled chamber also wanted dozens of more reforms.

The compromise reached early Tuesday morning includes the following:

  • A ban on chokeholds and "warrior-style" training
  • Additional training on autism, crisis intervention and cultural bias
  • Resources for managing stress
  • A duty to intervene when an officer sees a colleague acting inappropriately
  • The creation of a POST board database of public peace officer data
  • An independent investigatory unit in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
  • Incentives for officers to live in the communities they serve
  • Changes to arbitration, making the process more accountable to the public via a panel of six appointed community members whose terms will expire

The House passed the reform package just before midnight. The Senate passed it at 2 a.m. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that this is just the beginning.

"The conversation cannot and will not end here with the passage of this bill, because there is a lot of work that will be required to protect Black bodies," Democratic Assistant Senate Minority Leader Sen. Jeff Hayden said.

According to Hayden, the bill the passed overnight lacks the critical language for penalties for bad actors, so this will be something may follow in the regular session.

The leader of the Republican-controlled Senate, Sen. Paul Gazelka, said that more reforms will come during the next session.

"These [ideas] need to be vetted in a hearing in a regular session where we can have a lot more voices," he said. "That was something we all wanted, but we sensed the urgency of doing something now."

Three progressive Democrats voted against the measure, including Sen. Patricia Torres Ray.

"The communities that are impacted by police brutality want more. They want transformational policy," Torres Ray said.

It's noteworthy that for all the controversy and tension at the Capitol since George Floyd's death, the votes on this sweeping and historic bill were overwhelmingly bi-partisan. The Senate voting 60-7 in favor, and the House voting 102-29.

Gov. Tim Walz says he looks forward to signing the package into law.

"After decades of advocacy by communities of color and Indigenous communities, the bipartisan passage of these measures is a critical step toward justice," Walz said. "This is only the beginning. The work does not end today."

However, the office of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey pointed out that the city had already met or exceeded a number of the changes covered in the bill, including the ban on warrior-style training and chokeholds.

"The absence of significant arbitration reform in last night's agreement represents a missed opportunity to strengthen accountability in departments across our state. At the local level, change-oriented leaders like Chief Arradondo will continue to see their ability to effect a culture shift limited without changes to arbitrators' authority to overturn disciplinary decision for egregious misconduct. People build culture, and we need the tools to more effectively address individual officer behavior," Frey said.

This police reform package comes less than two months after the killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. Cellphone video of the fatal arrest showed ex-officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn't breathe.

The video sparked protests and riots in Minneapolis and across the country. The outrage led to calls for police accountability and reform, as well as initiatives to defund and dismantle police departments.

What Minnesota lawmakers have yet to agree on during the special session is a $1.9 billion bonding bill for construction projects and jobs.

Bonding bills require a three-fifths majority to pass both chambers, but it must pass in the House first. Republicans in the House said that they wouldn't vote for the bonding bill as it stood Monday.

WCCO reached out to the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, which has been on the record opposing many of these reforms. Officials say they will likely release a statement on the matter Wednesday.

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