Dave Baker: Police reform needed for accountability but not dismantling
Summary: Police reform needed to return accountability and rebuild trust
Like you, I watched the video of the arrest and death of George Floyd in Minneapolis with outrage and shock. The treatment that Mr. Floyd was subjected to is completely unacceptable. My heart breaks for his family, friends, and the entire state of Minnesota as we begin the work to heal and rebuild communities that have been destroyed by vandalism and looting.
In the wake of this tragedy, there has been significant momentum and public outcry for police reform to improve accountability and trust between law enforcement and the communities they are tasked to serve. I expect some of these proposed reforms will be considered during an upcoming Minnesota Legislature's special session in St. Paul.
One proposal that has received a lot of attention is a movement to “defund” or “abolish” the Minneapolis Police Department. This proposal is radical, reckless, and would have an extraordinarily negative impact on our state and region. I do not, and will not support defunding or abolishing police departments.
While some proposals are non-starters like the defund the police movement, there are several other commonsense reforms that the Minnesota Legislature should consider during the upcoming special session and the future. One proposal that has drawn interest from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle is legislation authored by Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, that reforms the arbitration process for public employees that have been terminated.
Current law requires mandatory arbitration for fired public employees who appeal their termination. This mandate has been cited as a factor that has resulted in delayed action against law enforcement officers that have engaged in bad conduct.
The proposed change makes sure that employees can still appeal their termination, but the appeals process would be adjudicated through an administrative law judge instead of an arbitrator. These judges are impartial and make decisions based solely on the facts of the disputed case.
To be clear, the overwhelming majority of police officers do their jobs with dignity and respect. Sadly, a small number of bad cops give their profession a bad name and erode public trust. The current appeals process can sometimes protect these bad apples and is why some cops continue to be employed who otherwise would have been fired. This reform would be a step to ensure that good cops keep their jobs and the bad apples are let go.
Here in Kandiyohi County, we are lucky to have a great law enforcement team that serves our area with dignity and respect. All our officers and support staff are engaged in the local community and enforce the law with a level of professionalism that we all can be proud of.
Just take a moment to imagine putting on a bulletproof vest and firearm when you go to work every day, not knowing if you will return home to your family safe and sound when your shift is over. For law enforcement, this is a daily reality.
While so much of the rhetoric and public discourse these days cast all law enforcement in a negative light, these sentiments do not reflect the majority opinion of folks in our area. Kandiyohi County and our community stand behind law enforcement. I thank them and their families for keeping us all safe.
Dave Baker is the state representative for District 17B. representing the majority of Kandiyohi County.