House moving forward on police reform legislation, unclear if Senate Republicans will follow

The conference committee tasked with deliberating the 2021 Judiciary Omnibus Bill began its work this week, walking through the Senate and House versions of the bill and the similarities and differences. There is more than 200-page difference between the two bills, with the House having a higher budget target and allowing policy provisions to be included in the bill.

One of the biggest issues determining the fate of the omnibus bill is police reform. The Legislature passed a reform bill last summer following the murder of George Floyd. Senate DFLers vowed then that that bill was only the beginning of the transformational reforms needed in our policing and criminal justice system. The subsequent police killing of Daunte Wright along with other police killings across the country have continued to prove the need for this transformational work.

In that spirit House DFLers made an initial offer with various police reforms to the conference committee, including the establishment of sign and release warrants, establishing law enforcement citizen oversight councils, regulating the use of no-knock warrants, establishing a model policy on response to public assemblies, and more. All together the proposal included 12 provisions that have been vetted by the House. In contrast, Senate Republicans have held no hearings on police reform this year. The Senate Republican Majority Leader at one point said hearings would be held, only to flip-flop and decide that any reforms would be addressed in conference committee.

The House also made an offer addressing other noncontroversial provisions in the bill. It remains to be seen when and if Senate Republicans will respond to either offer, and if Senate Republicans will consider police reform as part of this bill or continue to ignore community demands to keep Minnesotans safe.

Senate DFLers will continue to fight for the transformational reform in our policing and criminal justice systems – we made a promise we won’t break. (SF 970, House police reform proposal)