MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz and state legislators representing Minnesota’s People of Color and Indigenous Caucus made a call for specific reforms to Minnesota law they say will support racial justice. The call comes in the aftermath of the unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the eve of a special session of the legislature.

“Minnesotans are demanding real change,” Walz said. “We stand united with House and Senate leaders and the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, ready to get to work during the upcoming special session. I stand with the legislators who have coordinated a powerful set of reforms to make meaningful changes to our law enforcement system in Minnesota.”

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There have been calls for changes and reform of policing in Minnesota and Minneapolis for decades, but never like this, with so many legislators joining Walz saying the time is now.

“It’s 2020. If you’re not going to listen to us today, you’re never going to listen to us,” Rep. Ruth Richardson said.

The changes being called for involve changes in specific Minnesota laws that would fundamentally change when police officers can use force and how they can lose their jobs. It’s something legislators have been talking publicly about since the killing of Floyd. The unrest that left some Twin Cities neighborhoods in piles of rubble has seared an urgency into legislators of color.

“Minnesota should adopt principles of ethics for police officers use of force practices that are centered on advancing human rights that rely on standards of reasonableness as opposed to relying only on the subjective judgement of each individual office,” Rep. Carlos Miriani, chair of the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee, said.

Legislators want Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in charge of police use of deadly force incidents, not counties. This measure has the support of the Minnesota County Attorneys’ Association.

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Also, they want to provide new power to the Minnesota POST board, which was created by legislature in 1967 and controls the licencing of peace officers, but has had little power to enforce the firings.

“It has laid dormant and largely unresponsive,” Miriani said.

The reforms could include a statewide ban on police choke-holds — a ban Minneapolis just enacted — as well as administrative reforms that would affect all police departments but clearly aimed at reigning in Minneapolis.

“What we are hearing all throughout this week is a call precisely for a redesign of particularly that police department, that governmental entity,” Miriani said.

Lawmakers are also expected to push for laws that at minimum provide incentives for police to live in the city they work in. May 2020 figures show that 7% of Minneapolis officers actually live in the city.

Other priorities listed in the initiative include investing in alternatives to policing as it currently exists, with an emphasis on social workers and violence intervention, and a grand program to fund professional community healers trained to respond to systemic oppression.

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The changes being proposed are sweeping, but there is also major opposition. Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has cautioned against moving too quickly. Walz has countered by saying the legislature can stay in session indefinitely until they get these reforms done.

Esme Murphy