Lawmakers hold hours-long hearing as Minnesota legislature weighs police changes

Protesters are out calling for change while lawmakers in St. Paul are in day two of a special session on Saturday.

They're are hoping to tackle criminal justice and police accountability reforms, but a package of changes proposed by Democrats faces an uphill battle in the Minnesota Senate.

Saturday, lawmakers took part in an all-day virtual hearing that included a family member of George Floyd, whose death has given massive momentum to a long list of police reform, such as requiring officers to live where they work.

The bills are grouped into three larger acts, reclaiming community oversight, reforming police accountability and re-imagining public safety.

Along with Floyd's family, lawmakers heard from Protea Toles, the sister of Ira Toles, a woman who was shot by the former Minneapolis Derek Chauvin in 2008. Chauvin is the officer charged with George Floyd's death.

"Whenever there is a tree that produces apples, continuously produces bad apples, not only do you get rid of the apples, you get rid of the tree," said Protea Toles.

The long list of changes focuses on very specific reforms, such as training, use of force rules, how officers are disciplined, and how they’re investigated.

"It’s an important bill, it’s a meaningful bill, it’s a needed bill at this time in our state’s history," said Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom.

Backstrom, who is also the chair of the county attorney’s association for Minnesota, testified in favor of having the attorney general investigate all officer-involved deaths -- as they are in the Floyd case. Often, county attorneys handle the investigation when someone dies at the hands of a police officer.

The POST Board chair Kelly McCarthy, who oversees licensing of police officers in Minnesota, testified they’re looking at all training and discipline rules while apologizing that it’s far overdue.

"I am sorry that we have refused to hear your voices," said McCarthy. "And I am sorry we are in a system that allows for us to ignore you."

"This is essential to restoring public trust," said Minneapolis Police Deputy Chief Kathy Waite. "If we wish to restore public faith in law enforcement, we all have a role to play.”