Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signs police bill after George Floyd's death
ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Gov. Tim Walz signed a series of police accountability measures into law Thursday, shaking up police tactics and overhauling investigations of use-of-force incidents in response to George Floyd's death in May.
Lawmakers passed the measure earlier this week at the end of their special session with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans.
The measure includes several changes that are a direct response to Floyd's death, including a ban on chokeholds and a requirement that officers intervene when they see excessive force. The law prohibits taxpayer funding for so-called "warrior training" and adds more community input on the state's Police Standards and Training Board.
“The legislation that was just passed is absolutely leaps and bounds what any other state has done," Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington told reporters at a news conference after the bill signing.
But questions remain about whether some provisions in the law represent much of a change at all.
The law says cities can offer incentives to encourage officers to live within city limits. But Minneapolis officials assert they already had the ability to offer incentives, said Casper Hill, a city spokesman.
While the law bans chokeholds and requires officers to intervene, many agencies already had such policies. The law prohibits taxpayer funding for warrior training but does not stop police unions from paying for the training.
The measures have gotten a lukewarm reaction in the community.
Community activists have called it a "watered down" bill and said the police accountability measures do not go nearly far enough.
The law is a product of weeks of intense negotiations between the Democratic-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate.
House Public Safety committee chairman Carlos Mariani said the law was a "high-water mark" for lawmakers of color, who played a key role in the negotiations.
Minnesota's associations of police chiefs and sheriffs endorsed the legislation. Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts and Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said they were included in the negotiations.
"We got a punch in the face. We deserved it," Leslie said. "We’re ready to make those reforms that the people have made into law."
Republican lawmakers were missing from Thursday's bill signing ceremony, stirring up more squabbling at the Capitol. A spokesman for Walz said the Republican leader of the Minnesota Senate, Paul Gazelka, was invited Wednesday night. Senate Judiciary committee chairman Warren Limmer said Republicans had not been invited.