The board that licenses Minnesota police officers on Thursday approved an expansion of the type of crimes that would trigger a review of an officer’s license for potential discipline.
The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training unanimously voted to add misdemeanor domestic assault, fifth-degree assault and fourth-degree DWI to the list.
Currently, the POST board revokes the license of any officer who is convicted of a felony. The board reviews gross misdemeanor cases and decides whether to take disciplinary action against an officer’s license.
Before Thursday’s decision, the misdemeanors the POST Board would review included convictions for theft, prostitution, violation of a harassment or restraining order and failing to report maltreatment of a vulnerable adult.
Dave Bicking, a board member with Communities United Against Police Brutality, addressed board members at their meeting, saying the board doesn’t use the authority it already has.
“The three changes are, frankly, just window dressing,” Bicking told the board. “… Your discretion (in misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases) is generally used to excuse the officer over and over and over again.” He added that the standards address “nothing as far as on-duty conduct of police.”
But Nathan Gove, POST board executive director, said after the meeting that while the changes “may not be enough in the eyes of some, I think it is responsible, it’s thoughtful and it’s appropriate.”
He also said they were discussing “a very, very, very small group of officers that find them(selves) on the wrong side of the law,” which he described as one-tenth of 1 percent — “hardly a profession that’s off the rails,” Gove said.
When the board reviews an officer’s license, they could make a decision that ranges from dismissing the case, reaching a corrective action agreement, a reprimand, or suspension or revocation of the license, Gove said.
There have been no significant changes to the POST board standards of conduct for officers since 1995, according to the board.
Two of the misdemeanor convictions the board voted to add Thursday — domestic assault and fifth-degree assault — would already disqualify someone from getting a peace officer license in the first place in Minnesota.
“It seemed quite obvious to me that if there’s several convictions for which somebody is forever barred from being a police officer, it certainly should come before the board once somebody is a professional peace officer and gets convicted of that,” Gove said.
The board chose to add misdemeanor DWI because “everyone knows that driving while impaired is a threat to the public safety” and it reflects badly on the law enforcement profession, Gove said.
Gove said people should keep in keep in mind that officers “are disciplined by not only the courts from the criminal justice perspective, but from their (law enforcement) agency. Some agencies will terminate an officer, certainly any promotional opportunities can be lost when something like that happens and the department is embarrassed. There are a number of avenues that officers are held accountable.”
The changes can help build accountability, said Inver Grove Heights Police Chief Paul Schnell, a former POST board member.
When it comes to police departments seeking discipline against officers, Schnell said they realize that employees have due process rights, but “the reality is, in many instances” departments can’t take the discipline action they want “because of certain kind of union issues that may come up and the arbitration process.”
Adding the three misdemeanors to POST review will have to go through the administrative rule process and there are requirements to give the public an opportunity to comment, Gove said.
It “could be at least a year, potentially” before they’re put in place, he said.
At Thursday’s meeting, the POST board also approved learning objectives for training the state’s peace officers in crisis intervention, conflict management and community diversity.
The Legislature mandated last year that officers receive at least 16 hours of training in these areas. It’s among their 48 hours of continuing education they must complete every three years.
Nearly 5,000 of Minnesota’s 11,000 officers have already received some type of mental health and crisis response training, Gove estimated, and “significant numbers” have gone through 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Team training.
The POST board also provides the state’s 433 law enforcement agencies with instructional materials for annual in-service training about use of force. The board approved amended standards Thursday, which include an increased focus on “verbal and non-verbal communication strategies” for de-escalation.
What is mindblowing is the powers that be can hold conflicting views at the same time.
On one hand they want to trim the list of Disqualifying Convictions of crimes to become a MN Peace Officer (to get more "xyz" candidates)..... and yet lower the bar on dropping the big hammer on licensed MN Peace Officers...