DFL lawmakers want to clarify school resource officer law

After controversy last fall over legislative changes for school resource officers, which led to some departments to pull its officers from Minnesota schools, DFL lawmakers say they will move to "clarify" use-of-force rules.

Last fall, police agencies from across the state raised issues with the new restrictions on use of force within schools, which law enforcement officers felt limited their ability to intervene in dangerous situations. Lawmakers say the intent of the amendments was to prevent excessive force used on students. They also said nothing in the law prevented officers from intervening to prevent someone from being harmed.

Several major agencies responded by announcing they'd pull officers from schools, demanding that lawmakers work quickly to rework the language.

A special session wasn't called. However, Attorney General Keith Ellison issued guidance on the law in late September, saying the new amendments allow for officers to engage in physical contact if they are preventing bodily harm or death. The changes only prevent the use of certain restraints outlined in the law, including the prone restraint. Restrictions on the use of the prone position have become a focus following the death of George Floyd.

That opinion was enough for some agencies to reverse course and put officers back into schools. But, most of the agencies that had pulled their officers weren't satisfied.

But Tuesday, Rep. Cedrick Frazier and Senator Bonnie Westlin announced the latest legislation intended to "provide the clarity law enforcement agencies and school districts sought last fall regarding the use-of-force standard."

The new changes appear to strip out references to school resource officers and police concerning the restrictions on the use of force and prone restraints. But, it also mandates training for anyone who serves as an officer in Minnesota schools.

The new bill is set to get a hearing as the legislative session kicks off next week.