ST. PAUL — Democratic members of Minnesota’s state House are hoping to pass more police accountability and criminal justice legislation this year, though they may meet a roadblock in the Republican-controlled Senate.
In a Thursday, Jan. 21m public safety committee hearing, state Rep. Carlos Mariani, D-St. Paul, commended his colleagues for passing a police accountability bill package this summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. He said the summer package was “important” and crafted with a lot of public input, but “much work still remains.”
Mariani, who chairs the public safety committee, named body camera guidelines, officer training, citizen oversight, and white supremacy among the issues where he’d like to see more reforms this year.
But the Democrat-controlled House often disagrees with the Republicans in the Senate when it comes to police reform and criminal justice. The bill package that made it over the finish line this summer was significantly stripped down from what House Democrats initially proposed.
Lawmakers, officials and activists during the hearing lamented the partisanship that dictated the passage of this summer’s bills. Rep. Athena Hollins, D-St. Paul, said that when Minnesotans — no matter their race — are in an emergency, they should feel safe calling the police.
She added that it’s “deeply hurtful” to Minnesotans when legislators are “reactionary,” passing police accountability laws after someone has been hurt or killed by an officer, instead of passive reforms proactively. In addition to Floyd, she cited Philando Castile’s death in Falcon Heights, just outside of St. Paul, in 2016.
“This is not a partisan issue. It’s not a race-based issue,” she said. “It should be nonpartisan because it affects all of us.”
Angela Myers, the second vice president of Minneapolis’s NAACP division, said the issue also shouldn’t be a fight between residents of the Twin Cities versus Greater Minnesota.
“It is not just Minneapolis. It is all of Minnesota. It is in rural Minnesota,” she said. “It is not just a Black issue. It affects all of us.”
“When one of us hurts, we all hurt,” she concluded.
Contact Sarah Mearhoff at email@example.com or 610-790-4992.