Minnesota POST Board advances proposal to ban white supremacists from police ranks

In a contentious 9-3 vote, Minnesota's Peace Officer Standards and Training Board advanced a series of rule changes including a ban on people who support or participate in white supremacy, hate or extremist groups from getting a law enforcement license.

The proposed new standards allow noncitizens who are eligible to work in the U.S. to become Minnesota police officers. They keep the minimum eligibility age at 18 years old, rejecting a change to 21.

It's just one step of Minnesota's lengthy administrative rulemaking process, and the proposal is subject to a hearing and review by an administrative law judge. The rules could take effect in January 2023, according to a schedule released by the POST Board on Thursday.

The guidelines around citizenship and age would be statewide standards. Individual law enforcement agencies could adopt tougher standards, such as requiring U.S. citizenship.

Opponents of the proposed rule on white supremacy raised concerns about guilt by association and freedom of expression. Critics of the overall package of changes said they had not been properly vetted.

Supporters detailed a lengthy review process that took place within the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. The citizenship change will open the door to more would-be applicants at a time when police agencies are struggling to recruit, they said. And the white supremacy restriction is not meant to rule out people whose pastor or family member makes a racist statement in their presence, they said.

Voting no were Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen, Minnesota State Patrol Trooper Pilar Stier, and Brooklyn Park Police Officer Jennifer Foster. Three other officers, Mankato Police Detective Jason Bennett, St. Paul Police Sgt. Jim Yang and Mendota Heights Chief Kelly McCarthy voted yes, along with the board's higher education and public members. Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen was absent.