ST. PAUL -- State legislators of Minnesota's People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus have introduced a slew of police and criminal justice reform bills in response to the death of George Floyd, a black St. Louis Park man who died by asphyxiation after a white Minneapolis Police officer knelt on his neck last week.
Introduced at a Tuesday, June 2 news conference, the caucus said they want to make the bills and overall reform a priority for the Legislature's upcoming June 12 special session, as well as future sessions.
POCI Caucus Chair Rep. Rena Moran, D-St. Paul, said Tuesday that "it’s time for all hands to come on deck and fundamentally change how police interact with black men and boys.”
“For too long, people in my community have been told they will have to wait for the systemic changes necessary to ensure people of color don’t have to live in fear of law enforcement,” Moran said. “They are tired of waiting for reform, tired of waiting for accountability, and tired of waiting for justice."
The legislators said the bills, if passed, will increase police accountability and transparency, raise conduct standards, heal community trust in law enforcement and reform investigation and prosecution processes for cases of officer-involved uses of force and deaths.
Rep. Fue Lee, D-Minneapolis, said Tuesday that Floyd died "at the hands of four individual police officers," but the issues stem back to "structural racism and implicit bias (that) have prevailed for generations." Tuesday's proposals are a first step to change, he said. Rep. Ruth Richardson, D-Mendota Heights, added that the voices of black Minnesotans "must have their voices uplifted . . . and must be leading the change that our voices have been crying out for centuries.”
At a separate Tuesday news conference, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said she and Gov. Tim Walz back the POCI Caucus's proposals because "we are no longer in a place where we can throw our hands up."
"The most important thing that leaders can do right now is to listen directly to communities of color, and to the Black community specifically, about policy proposals deconstructing systems of racism," Flanagan said. "If we don't take action, I don't see how we can move forward as a state at all."