Police organizations ask Legislature to pay for more officer training

Two leading law enforcement groups say they want mandatory officer training in conflict management and crisis intervention in exchange for state help in paying for the courses.

“What we’re proposing is really significant changes to police training in Minnesota,” said Dennis Flaherty of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

Flaherty testified in House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday in favor of House File 346 that would increase the continuing education requirements for officers applying to renew their licenses. Beginning July 1, 2018, the bill calls for 18 credits covering crisis intervention and mental illness, conflict management and mediation, and recognizing and valuing community diversity and cultural awareness. The bill spends $10 million in state funds to reimburse officers for the cost of the training.

Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts told lawmakers that there are many departments now requiring such training, but the bill would mandate it across the state and improve law enforcement.  

“We feel that when this is now a new mandate, when every police officer in the State of Minnesota will need to be trained in this area, it will improve the quality of policing in Minnesota for everyone,” Potts said.

Lawmakers like Rep. Debra Hilstrom are encouraged by the bill. 

“For the first time law enforcement has come forward and said we want you to mandate these kind of trainings and it is the first time that anywhere in Minnesota that this has happened,” said Hilstrom.

The bill also addresses the challenges police departments face in hiring a more diverse force. The bill sets aside $1 million for the pathways program designed to let persons in other occupations train for a job in law enforcement. The bill would offer grants covering 50 percent of the costs of the training. 

"It’s not uncommon when you get down to the final stages for there to be little or no diversity in those processes,” said Potts. “In this program, this pathway to policing program will change that.  We’ll see an increase in our candidates and in our diverse candidates.”

The bill passed on a unanimous voice vote and now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee.