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Minnesota POST Board Considers New Rules for Police

Date: July 20, 2022
Country: United States of America
Type: Post
Issues: Accountability  , Minority Rights , Racial Justice

The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) has proposed significant changes to the rules governing licensure of law enforcement officers. Following an 18-month public engagement process, the Board proposed new rules addressing background screenings, psychological assessments, minimum selection standards, and standards of conduct for licensed officers. The Advocates for Human Rights submitted comments supporting three key changes proposed by the Board: allowing non-citizens to be licensed as officers; allowing revocation of police license if officer is involved in white supremacist, hate, or extremist groups or in criminal gangs; and requiring law enforcement agencies to adopt policies restricting police from interfering in First Amendment-protected activities.

Read the Proposed Rules and the Statement of Need and Reasonableness for the proposed rules changes.

Comment to Proposed Minnesota Rules:

My name is Michele Garnett McKenzie. I serve as Deputy Director for The Advocates for Human Rights, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Minnesota that works to promote and protect internationally recognized human rights standards. For nearly 40 years, we have provided legal representation to people seeking safety in the United States from persecution and torture in their countries of origin. We work closely with law enforcement to combat human trafficking, including helping our clients report to law enforcement when they have been the victim of a crime.   

We support the proposed change to Minnesota Rules part 6700.0700 and the related change at 6700.0670 relating to eligibility for licensure of people eligible to work in the United States under federal requirements. The U.S. immigration system is complex, outdated, and fraught with backlog and delay. Today, asylum seekers face years of delays while cases are being processed and once granted asylum, people face additional statutory and bureaucratic delays before receiving lawful permanent resident status. Refugees clear multiple background checks prior to arrival, but also face statutory and bureaucratic delays before they can adjust their status to lawful permanent resident. People from 15 countries, including Ukraine and Afghanistan, hold Temporary Protected Status (TPS) authorized under section 244 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Although TPS does not, in itself, allow a person to apply for lawful permanent resident status, TPS designations typically last for years and, in some cases, decades. Other federal programs, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), provide individuals with long-term permission to reside in the United States. Categorically excluding people who are otherwise qualified and desired as law enforcement officers simply because of their immigration status - not their eligibility for employment - arbitrarily undermines the ability of local jurisdictions to recruit candidates who come from the communities with which they will engage. 

In our 2013 report, Moving from Exclusion to Belonging: Immigrant Rights in Minnesota Today, we reported that "[w]hile perceptions of law enforcement varied greatly, law enforcement interaction with immigrant and refugee community members impacts immigrants' perceptions of the community at large." Allowing local law enforcement agencies to recruit and hire sworn officers who reflect the local communities which they serve provides an important tool for departments to use in earning and building trust with Minnesota's diverse communities. We support the proposed change to Minn. Rule 6700.0700, subpart 1, paragraph A: "The applicant shall be a citizen of the United States or eligible to work in the United States under federal requirements" and the related proposed change to Minn. Rule 6700.0670, subpart 2, paragraph A(1).

We also support the proposed changes to Minn. Rule 6700.1600 relating to standards of conduct. The proposed changes are consistent with international standards for policing, including the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, adopted by the United Nations in 1979. At their core, international standards call on law enforcement officials to respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons. Recognizing the extraordinary trust vested by the public in members of the law enforcement profession, officials must demonstrate both ethical and legal conduct. International standards also recognize the fundamental principle of non-discrimination: that all persons are equal before the law, and are entitled, without discrimination, to equal protection of the law and that, in protecting and serving the community, police shall not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, language, color, political opinion, national origin, property, birth, or other status. Proposed rules which identify the support, advocacy, or participation in white supremacist, hate or extremist groups or criminal gangs (hate group) by licensed officers as a violation of the standards of conduct, are consistent with and necessary for compliance with these international standards.

The proposed rules provide clear definitions and guidelines regarding conduct which fails to meet these standards. They maintain important due process protections for officers. They recognize that police officers, like all persons, enjoy the fundamental rights to freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, and association, but that these rights do not outweigh the State's interest in promoting fair and consistent public services by law enforcement officers who uphold the laws and who accept that all persons in Minnesota are entitled to basic civil rights and fair law enforcement.

We also support the proposed changes to Minn. Rule 670.1615 relating to the inclusion of a statewide Public Assembly/First Amendment Activity policy as a required policy. Law enforcement officials involved in policing assemblies carry a complex and critical responsibility in our democracy. They must respect and ensure the exercise of the fundamental rights of organizers and participants, while also protecting journalists, monitors and observers, medical personnel and other members of the public, as well as public and private property, from harm. (See UN Human Rights Committee, General comment No. 37 (2020) on the right of peaceful assembly (article 21), para. 74.) Inclusion of a Public Assembly/First Amendment Activity policy amongst the several other required policies for law enforcement agencies is reasonable and responsible.

International standards state that "every law enforcement agency shall be representative of and responsive and accountable to the community as a whole." The proposed changes reflect the thoughtful work of Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training and the Advisory Committee it convened and take meaningful steps toward ensuring Minnesota meets its obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill its human rights obligations.