Letter: Police Accountability Act a good first step

Published 6:30 am Saturday, August 8, 2020

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The League of Minnesota Cities thanks the State Legislature and the Governor for their work to pass the Police Accountability Act. This legislation is a good beginning and goes a long way toward addressing law enforcement systemic reform. There is, however, more work to do, and we stand ready to provide additional support and assistance.

As it currently stands, the Minnesota Public Employment Labor Relations Act arbitration system undermines the ability of elected officials and police chiefs to make lasting departmental disciplinary and termination decisions to protect residents and ensure a responsible public safety environment. As a result, police officers who are removed from duty for misconduct are often returned to their department and assignments based solely on the opinion of an independent arbitrator.

The League believes that the legislation that was passed did not go far enough because it does not include a new reduced standard of review in police discipline matters. A standard of reasonableness would focus the arbitrator’s role on simply determining whether the facts presented show that the employer’s actions were reasonable and consistent with city and departmental policies. This reasonable standard is necessary in order to truly increase accountability and foster cultural change in our police departments.

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The League also supports the use of administrative law judges (ALJs) for grievances involving terminations and discipline for severe instances of police misconduct, including excessive use of force. This ALJ model provides an appeals process when terminations or disciplinary actions are overturned, which the current arbitration process does not.

As state lawmakers continue the important work of pursuing law enforcement reform in the coming weeks and months, the League urges all legislators and the Governor to ensure these additional police accountability measures become law.

David Unmacht

Executive Director

League of Minnesota Cities