36 months after George Floyd's murder, police reform finally considered in Minnesota

Minnesota's Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board recently presented changes to policy governing police and sheriff's departments for review by the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. Two and a half years after Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020, and eighteen months after Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison, limited structural reforms are being considered.

As reported in the Minnesota Reformer by Deena Winter, these policy changes were first proposed in April 2022. Since then, over 1600 public comments have been received by the POST Board. Several issues are at hand: disclosure of behavior and policy violations by officers, rules concerning affiliation with extremist organizations, and an increase in the POST board's power to remove cops for misconduct, even if not convicted.

"Brian Peters, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association — representing 10,000 public safety officials — said 92% of their members who responded to a survey have concerns about the proposed rules."

Predictably, Peters, like police unions across the country, argues the unfounded narrative that calls to defund the police have made officers and society less safe and the police department victims of some giant conspiracy. Defund the police calls for redirecting municipal, federal, county, university, and state budgets toward community safety – housing, education, mental health, and public transportation, to name a few examples. More on that another time.

This myth about defunding police has provided politicians, pundits, and other pontificators to paint police accountability and community-defined safety as the threat. This is intentional misdirection from bloated budgets for urban warfare conducted by officers who often do not live in the neighborhoods they police and do not prevent or solve crimes in significant numbers.

When the police claim to be victims, you know that script writers for Blue Bloods are ready for a new episode idea or similar minds are on contract for damage control while journalists are in the crossfire.

The concerns about the new proposals also include conservative and religious freedom groups. Renee Carlson, a spokesperson for these groups, argues that "the rules violate officers' due process and have a preference for "one set of perspectives over another," also known as "viewpoint discrimination," a violation of the First Amendment. The rule could be used to attack people with sincerely held, religious-based opinions that are critical of "prevailing culture practices" with regard to marriage and sexuality, she said. Another uncanny and astounding point of contention is the claim that prosecutors "over-disclose" the records of police officers. Why not? And especially when past decisions or actions might be significant for the case at hand.

What that sounds like to me is that it is legal to discriminate – as long as you are a protector of laws and keeper of the peace. Who's the law, and who's order? I want to see police officers snitch on each other like they are always begging the public to do.

What does over-disclosure mean in a court of law? When are police officers citizens? When and why should they have the right to privacy? As an officer for public safety, how safe is it for communities that officers believe do not have the same rights as everyone else? Are officers who believe white people and European culture superior to all other cultures safe for non-white people to interact with? Can officers who believe that homosexuality is a sin and gay people will go to a place called hell after they die create safety for the LGBTQ community?

With regards to police officers and white nationalist beliefs, "Fridley Police Chief Brian Weierke, president of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said the rule banning applicants or officers from participating in or supporting white supremacist, hate or extremist groups needs to be more clearly defined, so the rule isn't "weaponized."

Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud said the new rules would hurt recruitment efforts, even as law enforcement nationwide has struggled to recruit and retain officers the past couple of years due to "protests," the pandemic, and "political rhetoric calling for defunding police."

One would think that the management structure of law enforcement workers would want to do everything possible to root out white supremacists in their ranks in an open, transparent, and well-reported manner. It would be simply disingenuous to re-frame the rejection of this proposal because of their supposed negative effect on recruitment.

The consequences of increased budgets for urban warfare translate into decreased budgets for social infrastructures and programs. Increased policing budgets are violent for the communities who have to live the everyday experiences of police officers who act as if they are above the law, protected by laws like "qualified immunity," negotiated by the only unions that capitalism accepts as necessary. The labor union laws that protect police are created, implemented, and protected by pro-punishment and pro-prison legislatures that ensure they will not be held liable or accountable. According to a federal court in Florida, officers do not have a Constitutional duty to protect others. This may not be a bad thing; or news to many.

After the two administrative law judges review the proposals, specifically, the jurisdictional authority of the Board and "whether [the proposals are] needed and reasonable," public feedback is the last step before implementation.