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Rule change aims to prevent extremist group members from becoming Minnesota police officers


Lawmakers, activists and local religious leaders on Wednesday praised efforts by a state licensing board to prevent Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies from hiring officers with ties to extremist groups.

The Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, known as the POST board, is expected to vote on Friday on several changes to its licensing standards, which includes a provision to prohibit members and supporters of white supremacist and hate groups from becoming licensed law enforcement officers.

“This is a values statement and the values are that every Minnesotan, no matter what zip code you’re in, no matter what color your skin is, no matter what circumstance you were born into, you have a right to be safe in your community,” said State Rep. Cedrick Frazier, a Democrat from New Hope who has been heavily involved in crafting policing reform measures in the Legislature. “Those that take the sacred oath … will protect and serve everyone with the same valor and vigor, and will provide everyone with dignity.”

The amended changes from the POST board come more than two years after legislation passed by the lawmakers at the Capitol shortly after George Floyd’s murder that added more citizens to the body.

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation describes white supremacist and far-right militia groups as the most lethal domestic terror threat facing the nation, and has been alerting its agents that members and supporters of these groups have been infiltrating law enforcement agencies around the country.

“The danger of this threat is real,” said the Rev. Elijah McDavid III during Wednesday’s news conference to announce the move. “That’s why the urgency of updating our conduct standards are so necessary – we must make a clear statement that any affiliation or engagement with a white supremacist group or a hate organization should prevent you from service.”

Two groups – Law Enforcement Labor Services and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer Association – sent a joint letter to the board expressing concerns over the rule changes. The letter argues that the proposed rules would diminish local agencies’ ability to discipline their own officers, and may interfere with the labor contracts that govern the officers of each individual local agency.

MinnPost photo by Mohamed Ibrahim

The Rev. Elijah McDavid III: “We must make a clear statement that any affiliation or engagement with a white supremacist group or a hate organization should prevent you from service.”

But State Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL) of St. Paul, the outgoing chair of the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, said leaving that discretion to the hundreds of jurisdictions within the state has left holes of inconsistent protections of rights of Minnesota residents.

“Our state standards should be enforced. That’s how you keep the public’s confidence and trust in public safety” Mariani told reporters. “Without that trust, there is no public safety.”

“The fact that the POST board even passed the policy is a sign of change,” said Minneapolis City Councilmember Robin Wonsley, Ward 2.

New Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara was among a list of expected speakers in support of the rule changes but was not present during the news conference.

“While he (O’Hara) is pleased with the direction of the rules process thus far, after seeking legal guidance, Chief O’Hara decided it would be inappropriate for him to speak in his capacity as chief of police at this non-city sponsored event,” said Minneapolis Police Information Officer Brian Feintech. “He wanted to avoid giving the appearance that he was attempting to unduly influence an administrative rules change process.”

MinnPost photo by Mohamed Ibrahim

Minneapolis City Councilmember Robin Wonsley: “The fact that the POST board even passed the policy is a sign of change.”

Frazier, who introduced similar legislation during his freshman term banning police officers from having any affiliation with white supremacist groups said he is confident lawmakers will take the opportunity to codify the legislation this biennium now that Democrats control the Legislature.

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State Rep. Kelly Moller, a Shoreview DFLer who will chair the House’s Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee, said Wednesday that House DFLers will hear legislation on police reform that previously stalled under politically divided government –  along with bills to offer more resources for police to help them with issues like recruitment and retention. Both the Minnesota House and Senate will be under DFL control come January when the new Legislature is sworn in, along with the governor’s office.

“I think that’s still a really important conversation to have,” Moller said on police reform. “I don’t know what bills that will include or what that will look like. But we will definitely be hearing some of those bills this year.”

MinnPost Staff Writer Walker Orenstein contributed to this report.


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