February 2, 2015
Our communities rely on a careful and fragile symbiosis between its citizens and those who enforce the law. Due to several high profile events, a division has grown between law enforcement agencies and the people they are sworn to protect and serve. Trust in our legal process is the most important factor in determining the success of our criminal justice system, and it is important that our citizens have the utmost confidence in those who are carrying out the law. To that end, Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) has authored the Police and Community Confidence Act, a measure that enhances police accountability and transparency.
The legislation lays out new guidelines regarding the investigation of deaths related to peace officers action. Currently, investigations may be performed by the law enforcement department where the incident took place, giving rise to questions regarding the impartiality of the investigation. The Police and Community Confidence Act says that when a police-related death occurs, the ensuing investigation must be conducted by at least two investigators from an outside agency. In addition, after the investigation has taken place, that outside report becomes public information if it is determined that there will be no charges brought related to the incident.
“By and large, law enforcement agencies across the state do a good job of holding themselves accountable for the actions of their officers. In fact, most agencies already have outside investigations done in these situations. However, communities demand that police -related death investigations are done in the most transparent and impartial way possible.” Sen. Latz continues, “This legislation is not about punishing police, but rather enhancing the communities’ faith in its law enforcement officers. Peace officers are authorized to use deadly force and citizens deserve to know that when that force is exercised it is done so lawfully.”
Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) is carrying the companion legislation in the Minnesota House of Representatives.