Minnesota school resource officers law: GOP calls for special session

Minnesota House and Senate Republicans are calling on Governor Walz to convene a special session to address concerns surrounding the state's new school resource officers (SRO) law.

In recent days, various law enforcement agencies have announced they will pull their school resource officers (SROs) out of schools due to confusion over a new law that guides use of force. 

"In my view, it strikes me as a solution looking for a problem. The good news is that it’s not too late," said Sen. Michael Kreun (R- Blaine).

Minnesota Republicans say the new SRO law needs to be fixed fast, asking the Governor to call for a special session.

"This is a time when we can truly come together as Minnesotans regardless of your party, regardless of your political beliefs, and do what’s right," said Sen. Zach Duckworth (R-Lakeville).

The new law essentially prohibits any kind of physical restraint in the torso area unless there is imminent bodily harm or death. The problem, police say, is a situation like at a football game where students may be disorderly, throwing things and causing a raucous. 

"Generally what we will try to do is get them to leave or trespass them from school property. We actually cannot do that physically [under the new law]. We would have to call officers off the street who are governed by other rules in this statute to manage that situation. So the cops are calling the cops," explained Chief Brian Podany of the Blaine Police Department.

The chief also said it’s not just the issue of using restraint, but the law also makes it confusing as to when police or staff should use restraint, giving an example of an escalating argument. 

"At what point do we now say we have a threat, is it when they're standing there talking, is it when they start to argue, is when people are chanting ‘fight, fight’ or is it when they actually start pushing and throwing punches," argued Chief Podany.

Republicans say they have some bipartisan support to make a change. "We could have this done in just a couple of days, our governor has called special sessions throughout his entire time as governor. This is a priority, we need school safety in Minnesota," urged Rep. Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring).

Walz said earlier this month lawmakers are misinterpreting the law and that school resource officers can use reasonable force whenever needed.

"There are exceptions for students' health, risk to them, risk to the police. So it is not being interpreted correctly; they certainly have the ability to do that," Governor Walz said.

DFL House and Senate committee chairs issued a statement that reads, "We value the role that school resource officers play in keeping schools safe, and Governor Walz’s administration is working diligently to ensure that districts and law enforcement have the guidance they need to do their jobs effectively."

In the meantime, some law enforcement agencies are developing "workarounds," such as patrolling around schools, maybe performing walkthroughs, but not stationing officers inside, which some critics say might hinder the effort to bridge the gap between our youth and police.