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Police, school officials reiterate call for special session over SRO flap

House Speaker Hortman addresses possible special session over SROs
House Speaker Hortman addresses possible special session over SROs 02:12

ANOKA, Minn. — Law enforcement officers from around the state are taking yet another step in calling for a special session to address a law regarding school resource officers (SROs), whereas the Speaker of the House has said she doesn't think a special session is needed.

In Anoka County Wednesday morning, some law enforcement officials explained exactly what they want to see changed. The messy, complex situation that's arisen this school year all centers around the number of different ways a single law can be interpreted.

The law in question comprises a few paragraphs, part of an education bill hundreds of pages long that was passed last spring. It centers around when a school resource officer can use force, and what types of force they can and can't use.

As the debate continues, more than 30 law enforcement agencies and growing have pulled their police officers out of schools, they say, until the law is changed.

"It matters how this law is interpreted," said Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association General Counsel Imran Ali. "From county attorneys, city attorneys, they agree there is significant issues with the new law. Even the (Attorney General) agreed they should be addressed."

On Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said, while many believe they're upset over a portion of the law focused on outlawing prone restraints, their main concern is actually the inability to use force unless there's a risk of bodily harm.

"We deal with laws that aren't perfect. This goes above and beyond that," Ali said. "When we start running contrary to our training and policies and create two standards, we put our officers in danger, and our students in danger as well."

In a letter to law enforcement Tuesday, Minnesota Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman said under Minnesota Law there is only one standard use of force, regardless of whether an officer is an SRO or not.

"Whether inside the school as an SRO or outside the school as a police officer – the standard for their conduct is the same," Hortman said. "People can find ambiguity in situations we think are pretty straightforward. We spend a lot of time and effort in the legislature making the law as clear as we can. This change had about 10 different arguments, no one raised an objection."

MPPOA countered Hortman's claim that the law doesn't create two standards.

"I have been on the phone for the last several weeks with every attorney I can possibly think of that specializes in areas of city, municipal work, etc., (and) all of them agree that this new law creates a different standard," Ali said. "We deal with laws that aren't perfect. This goes above and beyond that."

The law enforcement officers who spoke Wednesday say they've been in contact with Gov. Tim Walz's office as recently as Tuesday night, and shared that Walz told them he's still open to a special session. Hortman says she's not opposed to a special session but would want to see clarity from law enforcement as to the specific changes they'd want to make to the law ahead of time.

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