Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When suspects wear uniforms, what will Minn legislature do?

With the deadlines of the Minnesota Legislature coming fast, a specific bill that would require outside agencies to investigate fatal officer-involved deaths may be on life support.  It's known as the "Police and Community Confidence Act; a bill with bipartisan sponsorship that will promote the cooperation and trust between officers and the citizens they protect." as Senator Latz described the bill on his Facebook page.  The bill is SF466 by Senator Ron Latz.  The companion in the House is HF453 authored by Representative Cornish.

At this point Tony Cornish who is the Chair of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance is in a position to decide whether or not he wants to hear is own bill.  It appears based on this week's schedule for hearings so far and discussion around the Capitol, the bill will die.

With the shooting death of a 19 year old in Madison, Wisconsin by a Madison Police officer last week and it being reported in the Twin Cities news market it brings to our attention the Wisconsin law which calls for an independent investigation, which the Minnesota proposal is based on.

The Cornish/Latz bill would oblige an outside agency to investigate officer involved deaths other than the law enforcement entity in which the officer or officers are employed with. For example, an officer of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) kills an individual in an officer-related shooting, the MPD would not due the investigation, possibly St Paul Police or even maybe the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Several weeks ago there was a hearing on SF466 on February 19, 2015.  Testimony opposing the bill was done by Minneapolis Police Union head John Delmonico, and Brian Rice, who represents the Minneapolis Police Federation.  Mr. Delmonico right out of the box in public testimony stated he is there to "talk against the bill."  It is very clear that the Minneapolis Police Federation opposes it.

On the other hand I am struck by the Minneapolis Police Federation position.  In public data I obtained, Mr. Delmonico in discussion about the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension doing independent investigations in Minneapolis situations, a couple of years ago, stated in an email "in general, do not object to it."

Mr. Delmonico's email communication to Chief Harteau on September 16, 2013 was on a draft procedure titled "Use of the BCA to Investigate MPD Related Incidents" he stated:

"Thank you for providing me with a copy of "Use of the BCA to Investigate MPD Related Incidents" memorandum. I have had an opportunity to review it and in general, do not object to it."

It appears on one hand the main opposition against the independent investigations bill, Minneapolis Police Federation, publicly opposes independent investigations, but privately may have a different position from two years ago.  Organizations do change their minds.

The bill is important to have a public hearing in the House and to be continued through the legislative process.

The bill is long overdue.  In St Paul alone there have been 11 people killed by police use of deadly force since 2009 per the Star Tribune.  To have an independent presence with an independent law enforcement agency investigating these kind of incidents as outlined in SF466/HF453 there comes integrity and believability to the process and that is what is needed.


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