Police Reform Advocates Press Minnesota Legislature For More

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Above photo: Bayle Adod Gelle, Dolal Idd’s father, spoke at the Minnesota State Capitol on Tuesday calling on legislators to address police reform this session. Zoë Jackson/Star Tribune.

Bill approved last July seen by many as falling short of major change. 

Civil rights organizers were back at Minnesota’s Capitol as a new legislative session got underway Tuesday, ready to mount another push for changes to police accountability laws less than a week after another fatal police shooting in Minneapolis.

“We know that George Floyd is not an anomaly,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “George Floyd represents the history of state violence against people of color in this country and particularly against Black people.”

Floyd’s death last May in the custody of Minneapolis police officers made Minnesota ground zero for the debate over police brutality, Hussein said, and should compel state policymakers to be at the front of the pack when it comes to legislative reform.

In July, the Legislature approved a bill that restricted police use of chokeholds, banned warrior style training and requires officers to intervene when another officer is using excessive force.

Though hailed as a bipartisan victory, some activists felt the bill fell far short of truly substantive change.

Items remaining on wish lists for civil rights groups include a longer statute of limitations for prosecuting wrongful death, more than the current three years; a statewide ban on no-knock warrants that allow law enforcement to enter private residences without knocking; tougher limits on use of force by police; access within 48 hours for families to footage of law enforcement incidents that end in death; and the creation of an independent agency to investigate criminal misconduct, made up of retired attorneys and citizens.

Speakers at the Capitol event called on two leading Senate Republicans, Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Judiciary Chairman Warren Limmer, to take action in the coming weeks. Limmer has described police reform as an area of unfinished business but has also encouraged advocates to be patient. Last month, he told the Star Tribune that dramatic policy changes may need to take a back seat to a new statewide budget.

Gazelka and Limmer did not respond on Tuesday to requests for comment on the wish list put forward.

There is renewed attention around the push for accountability measures following last week’s fatal shooting of Dolal Idd by Minneapolis police after police say he fired a gun at them.

Idd’s father, Bayle Adod Gelle, was at Tuesday’s Capitol news conference. He said he has many questions related to the killing of his son that have not been answered.

“He was my son. The police killed him because he was a Black boy,” Gelle said.

Civil rights lawyer and activist Nekima Levy-Armstrong said that she believes change is possible.

“It’s not that they can’t change the system of policing, it’s that they won’t change the system of policing,” Levy-Armstrong said.

Staff reporter Stephen Montemayor contributed to this report.