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Police reform bills take small steps

The police reform legislation being considered in the special session of the Minnesota Legislature is following the path of the bonding legislation that is also being debated. Everyone agrees that something needs to be done — it’s just a matter of how much. DFLers want more and Republicans want less.

DFLers in the House and Gov. Tim Walz are proposing an extensive package of changes, ranging from whether police departments can require officers to live in the city, to changing use-of-force laws to create a new crime for excessive use of force that leads to death or severe injury, to moving all investigations of police killings to the state attorney general’s office.

Republicans have passed a series of five bills that address some of the issues, but not all. They especially don’t want Attorney General Keith Ellison, a DFLer, to have the power to investigate all killings by police.

It is unrealistic to hammer out an all-inclusive, sweeping reform of the state’s policing laws in a one-week special session. We realize the killing of George Floyd has made this an urgent issue, but a lot of legislators have proved time and again that rushed legislation is often poor legislation.

The Legislature should pass what it can in this special session, and set up a framework for continuing this discussion so that strong, effective measures can be written.

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