The members of the Senate POCI Caucus believe that the actions taken by the Minnesota Legislature during July 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, were simply inadequate in protecting the lives of Black Minnesotans. The legislation passed in July and subsequently signed into law would have not prevented the killing of George Floyd, nor did it prevent the killing of Daunte Wright on April 11, 2021.
The legislative measures adopted last year lacked the strength and the depth necessary to fundamentally alter public safety and bring about meaningful police accountability. In fact, they were justifiably characterized as inadequate and referenced as the “first step” toward achieving police accountability and public safety for all. Leader Gazelka and the Senate Republicans noted the insufficiency of the proposals, citing the fact that the proposals lacked depth because they passed in short order during a special session.
Upon passage of those measures last July by the House and the Senate, members of both chambers committed to pursuing additional reforms in good faith during the regular legislative session. Unfortunately, the Republican majority in the Senate disregarded their promise to continue the reforms during the regular session. So far this year, the Senate has not held a single hearing on police accountability.
Today, Senate Republicans held a press conference to outline the Senate’s new approach to matters of police accountability and public safety. Leader Gazelka stated that the Senate Judiciary and Transportation committees would hold fact-finding hearings that allow public testimony to ensure Minnesotans concerned about police violence and police brutality are heard. However, Leader Gazelka stopped short of saying that the Senate should pass additional legislation, stating that substantive reforms are “absolutely not” necessary.
If we believe Black lives matter, then we must pass substantive legislation to protect Black lives.
That is why members of the Senate POCI Caucus are proud to stand together today to demand that the Minnesota Legislature take urgent action to implement the additional reforms that were promised last year. We are calling on Leader Gazelka, Speaker Hortman, and Governor Walz to suspend all policy and budget negotiations until both the House and Senate have heard and adopted legislation on police accountability. We will not tolerate delays and we will not allow Leader Gazelka to use Black lives as a bargaining chip during budget negotiations on the final days of session. Our communities cannot wait any longer.
The following policy recommendations must be adopted by both the House and Senate before we will continue the normal business or budget negotiations at the Senate:
- Allow local governments to establish civilian oversight councils
- Ban the alteration, erasure, or destruction of body-worn camera recordings and withholding footage
- End qualified immunity
- Prohibit peace officers from affiliating with white supremacist groups
- Provide funding for community organizations working to prevent crime
The Senate People of Color & Indigenous (POCI) Caucus includes Sens. Mary Kunesh-Podein (41), Melisa Franzen (49), Foung Hawj (67), Omar Fateh (62), Bobby Joe Champion (59), and Patricia Torres Ray (63).