Senate GOP seeks delay of Minnesota police use-of-force limitations

Minnesota Senate Republicans say new standards that limit when police officers can use force against a person should be delayed by six months.

Democrats say the proposal is a "poison pill," marking the latest flashpoint in the debate over outside police help in Minneapolis during the Derek Chauvin murder trial, which started Monday. 

With international attention fixed on Minneapolis, Senate Republicans advanced a $20 million proposal for trial security, despite their GOP leader acknowledging there is no deal with the DFL-controlled House.

"The negotiations are absolutely continuing," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said. "This particular bill is not agreed upon."

Yet the GOP bill sparked new controversies Monday when Republicans included in their final version a delay of Minnesota's new use-of-force standards. Lawmakers approved the standards last summer, weeks after the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a Black man, died after Chauvin held him to the ground for nearly nine by putting his knee on Floyd's neck.

Republicans said the state needs more time to train officers on the new use-of-force limits, which allow deadly force to be used only when not doing so poses the imminent threat of death or great bodily harm. 

The GOP proposal delays the new limits from taking effect until Sept. 1. Democrats said the new limits should take effect as scheduled. 

"I'm asking you to vote against this bill because even a delay is a delay of justice and opportunity," said state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis.

Gov. Tim Walz first proposed a $35 million fund in January as his public safety officials signed up hundreds of officers from at least a dozen agencies to provide mutual aid in Minneapolis during the Chauvin trial. The outside officers will be relied upon mostly during closing arguments, jury deliberation and the verdict, according to city planning documents. 

But Walz's plan flopped in both the House and Senate. Some House Democrats blocked it, opposing any additional money for police without additional accountability measures. Senate Republicans said Minneapolis should pay the entire cost for outside help.

The Senate GOP's latest $20 million proposal is more than two previous versions, which offered zero dollars and $15 million, respectively. It creates a panel of two police chiefs, two sheriffs and the state public safety commissioner to make decisions on reimbursement requests.

Democrats also argued against a second element of the GOP plan, which bans Walz from using state disaster relief money to help rebuild after the 2020 riots in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The two cities collectively contribute more to the city's tax base than it receives in state funding, Democrats said, paying for the state's response to natural disasters outstate.

"Members, I don't even recognize the Minnesota I know inside this chamber," said state Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.

Republicans consider Walz's attempt to use disaster aid in Minneapolis as a "bailout" for the city.

"Nowhere else in the nation do they have this fund, and it has been abused," state Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, said.