Minnesota lawmakers split on police reform as Minneapolis leaders unite

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June 13 (UPI) -- Minnesota lawmakers appeared divided this week on sweeping police reforms while the Minneapolis City Council agreed on replacing the department after the police-involved killing of George Floyd.

During a special session Friday, Republican lawmakers in the state legislature said they oppose restoring voting rights to felons and placing the state's attorney general -- instead of local prosecutors -- in charge of prosecuting police killings.

Still, there was agreement on some other issues across political parties in the legislature. Both parties supported banning chokeholds and providing more funding for de-escalation training.

Gov. Tim Walz and the legislature's People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, initiated reform proposals, including redefining when police are justified in using deadly force, providing funding for community-based alternatives to traditional policing and reforming how officers are disciplined.

Democrats said that there was not enough sweeping reform in what Republicans agreed to.

"This is not what Minnesotans of all persuasions are asking us to do," said state Sen. Jeff Hayden, a Democrat who represents the district that includes the Minneapolis neighborhood where Floyd died.

The Minneapolis City Council, on the other hand, was united in a resolution to replace the department.

On Friday, the council unanimously passed a resolution to replace the police department with a community-led public safety system amid some protesters' calls to defund the police.

"We acknowledge that the current system is not reformable -- that we would like to end the current policing system as we know it," council member Alondra Cano said.

Floyd, 46, an African-American security guard and community leader, died on Memorial Day during an arrest by Minneapolis police officers responding to a report of a man passing a counterfeit bill at a store.

Legislators and city councils in other states are also considering police reforms amid worldwide protests against police killings disproportionately impacting black people after video footage showed Floyd, who was unarmed, dying as a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

In New York, Mayor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill banning the use of chokeholds and repealed a decades-old statute that hid the disciplinary records of officers.

In Washington, D.C., the city council passed legislation Tuesday to require police to release the names of officers involved in deadly encounters with citizens, along with body-camera footage of the incidents. New legislation also makes neck restraints, and firing rubber bullets and tear gas at peaceful protesters illegal, but police said those practices were already forbidden.

The new D.C. legislation also says labor unions can't "shield employees from accountability," when it comes to misconduct, giving the police chief more power to fire officers. It also adds civilians with voting rights to the police department's Use of Force Review Board.

Under the Tuesday vote, changes are currently enacted for 90 days, and it would take a second vote to extend them for 225 days.

D.C. police Chief Peter Newsham said the changes occurred "too quickly" and without enough input.

Union Chairman Greggory Pemberton said that cutting labor unions out of the disciplinary process was unfair.

"The allegation that, somehow, police officers should not be entitled to the same employment rights as firefighters or nurses is preposterous," Pemberton said. "We hope that cooler heads will prevail before there is an exodus of officers, who can easily go to other departments where their rights are protected."

In Louisville, Ky., the Louisville Metro Council voted unanimously Thursday to ban "no-knock" warrants in response to the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old who worked as a certified emergency medical technician and was killed in March after police used such a warrant. The council named the legislation Breonna's Law

Taylor, an unarmed black woman, had no criminal history and was not the subject of the raid.

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