Police standards board calls for changes in response to protests

A group of men stand in prayer.
People gather in prayer during a protest over the killing of Daunte Wright takes place at the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on April 13.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated: 7:59 p.m.

The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training voted Thursday to develop a model policy for police response to public gatherings protected under the First Amendment.

The board received letters from Gov. Tim Walz, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, urging action.

Angela Rose Myers, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, told the board she considers the recent law enforcement actions against protesters in Brooklyn Center unacceptable.

"There should be no place for armed attacks and warring postures between law enforcement and the communities they serve, especially as the latter grieve and mourn the killings of Black and brown people," Myers said.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is Member supported public media. Show your support today, donate, and ensure access to local news and in-depth conversations for everyone.

There were few details presented, and creating a new policy requires a lengthy rule-making process, or action by the state Legislature, according to board staff.

POST Board chair and Mendota Heights police chief Kelly McCarthy said a policy is only the first step.

"A policy without accountability doesn't help anybody. It's a pinky swear at this point," she said.

McCarthy said under current POST Board rules, complaints about police actions against anyone exercising their First Amendment rights would be referred back to the department where the officer works.

"I just don't think it's good enough to have law enforcement investigating law enforcement,” McCarthy said. "Listening to our communities, especially our Black and brown communities. I don't know [that] that process is going to instill trust."

The board created a committee to investigate whether the POST Board could take action through the rulemaking process against officers who violate a first amendment policy, or if the Legislature would need to grant that authority.

“This is a way for us to really put on paper and stand as a board, that we are saying we protect the Constitution, as a core value of what we're trying to do as an organization," said board member and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Superintendent Drew Evans.

The POST board also voted unanimously to develop a policy that would prohibit licensed peace officers from supporting groups that espouse white supremacist beliefs.

Details on how such groups and affiliations would be defined and how officers connections to the groups would be determined were left to be worked out in the rule-making process. But Justin Terrell, a POST board member and executive director of the Minnesota Justice Research Center, said this is a critical time to make a public statement.

"If law enforcement wants to earn my trust, or if I want to feel like I can trust law enforcement around my little Black boys that I'm raising, I would strongly recommend that the profession and this body adopt an anti-racist position," Terrell said. "I want to see us move in a direction where we can be an example for how we create change."

The POST board will take up the issues again at the next regularly scheduled meeting in July, although McCarthy did not rule out calling a special meeting if draft policies are developed earlier.

Correction (April 22, 2021): A previous version of this story misstated House Speaker Melissa Hortman’s residence. It has been updated.