Minnesota House panel advances new police regulations after Floyd death

Minnesota House Democrats advanced several new police regulations Monday during a special session in the wake of the police killing of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis.

The House Public Safety committee voted 11-6 on legislation banning chokeholds, requiring police officers to intervene when another officer uses inappropriate force, and allowing cities to impose residency requirements. Two other bills, which restore voting rights for people after leaving prison and put the attorney general in charge of police killing investigations, passed 10-7.

"It’s not about going after law enforcement. There are good practices in the state," said state Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, the committee chairman. "And yet even with those good practices, we see what we saw on May 25 (with Floyd's death) and that’s not the first time."

The votes fell largely along party lines, with six of the committee's seven Republicans voting against the proposal.

"It’s unfortunate we have to go after everybody when there’s one bad apple," said state Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, and a former Isanti County sheriff's deputy. "So right now, I cannot support this."

House Democrats planned to hold floor votes on the four proposals by Friday. Republicans who control the Senate scheduled floor votes on more limited proposals for Tuesday afternoon.

There's broad support to ban chokeholds, require officers to intervene during an inappropriate use of force, and force law enforcement agencies to report use of deadly force to the state. But Senate Republicans have rejected many other proposals from the DFL's People of Color and Indigenous Caucus and plan to leave the Capitol by Friday.

Gov. Tim Walz, in his first public comments since Senate Republicans announced their opposition to several of the proposals, said he was "angry" but that he would try to bring lawmakers back to the negotiating table.

"Whether you like it or not, we are going to be defined either by the murder of George Floyd or by how we respond to the murder of George Floyd," Walz told reporters Monday in Duluth. "Us adjourning on Friday and not doing anything, in my opinion, will set the tone of how this state is viewed for generations."

State law forced Walz to call the special session Friday when he extended his peacetime emergency over the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. But after Floyd's death and four nights of unrest in Minneapolis and St. Paul, the eyes of the world are now on Minnesota's next move in race relations.

Walz spoke on the somber 100-year anniversary of a white mob lynching three black men in Duluth. He said there was a "direct line" between the lynchings and George Floyd's death in Minneapolis three weeks ago.