2017 Legislative Session Review

By Tom Freeman, Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, MCPA Government Relations Advisor

Two of MCPA's main legislative issues were increasing the reimbursement for police training and increasing criminal penalties on individuals impersonating a peace officer. Both initiatives made it into the omnibus public safety budget bill that Governor Dayton signed into law.  Other developments are summarized below.

Police Officer Training Reimbursement

The MCPA joined forces with our law enforcement partners (Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, and the Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training) to draft legislation that would increase the reimbursement to agencies for training. The goal of the training would be to find ways for our state to implement the recommendations put forward by the President’s Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing and upholding our mission of bringing the highest quality of police services and leadership. This effort is also a key step in building better community relations.

Here are some highlights on this issue that Governor Dayton signed into law:

  • Per officer reimbursement increases from about $320 per year to just under $1,000 over the next four years (Starting in 2018)
  • With the additional training dollars, peace officers will be required to obtain a total of 16

Continuing Education credits (during a 3-year, 48 credit licensing cycle. This does not add to the overall number of CEs) in the combined areas of crisis intervention and mental illness crises; conflict management and mediation; and recognizing and valuing diversity and cultural differences. While chiefs and officers have discretion to complete the 16 credits using any combination of these categories, they must have at least one credit of training for each. (Starting in 2018) (Go to http://bit.ly/2ruKBNx, p. 47 for the specific details of this legislation)

  • $400,000 of ongoing funding for the Pathways to Policing program starting in 2019. This program provides grants to compensate local law enforcement agencies who hire diverse, second-career individuals while they are completing their licensure requirements.

Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) and Senator Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) drafted and guided through this nearly $9 million for police training.

Unfortunately, to control long-term costs, the training language includes only four years of funding. While this is disappointing, the MCPA will work at the legislature to highlight the successes of the initiative and secure longer-term funding.

Fortunately, the Pathways to Policing’s $400,000 in annual funding is in perpetuity, and was a large victory for the MCPA. Thank you to all of the chiefs who participated at the capitol through testimony, legislative outreach, and input along the way.

Police Officer Impersonation

The second key legislative priority was a proposal authored by Rep. Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River) and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) that would more clearly defining what is to impersonate a police officer. The bill would enhance the penalties for impersonating a police officer from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor and requiring uniformity in security guard uniforms and vehicles. The bill was included in the House Omnibus Public Safety budget bill. The bill was in response to an increase in police impersonation in high profile cases such as the Barway Collins case in Crystal.

The proposal became extremely controversial during the budget negotiations as several security guard companies testified in opposition to the mandatory uniform changes. Ultimately, the legislative leaders and Rep. Zerwas were able to strike a deal to increase the penalties but come back in future years to work on the uniform and vehicle language. The language was signed into law by Governor Dayton along with the rest of the public safety budget.

Other Issues

As always at the legislature other legislative issues arise during the session that the MCPA plays an integral role in shaping. One key issue was amending court transcription statutes to ensure that body camera evidence cannot be excluded because a full written transcript was not provided. This issue was brought forward by the Hennepin County Attorney’s office and was signed into law in the omnibus budget bill.

A standalone measure of note passed almost unanimously and was signed by Governor Dayton that will allow cities, and law enforcement agencies, or school district to spend money and solicit contributions for National Night out events in the jurisdiction or for any event that it determines will foster positive relations between law enforcement and the community. The bill was brought forward by Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R – Paynesville) and Rep. Jeff Howe (R – Rockville).

Click here to see the full 2017 agenda