Working group releases consensus recommendations for reducing police-involved deadly force encounters
28 recommendations and 33 action steps cover community healing and engagement, prevention and training, investigations and accountability, policy and legal implications, and officer wellness
Diverse group convened by Attorney General Ellison and Public Safety Commissioner Harrington — only body of its kind in the country — completes six months of public hearings and listening sessions across Minnesota
February 24, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington today joined the members of the State of Minnesota Working Group on Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters in releasing 28 recommendations and 33 action steps that, if implemented, will reduce deadly force encounters with law enforcement in Minnesota. The recommendations fall under the categories of community healing and engagement; prevention and raining; investigations and accountability; policy and legal implications; and officer wellness. These are the five pillars of the mandate that the working set for itself. Its recommendations come after six months of testimony, study, and deliberation at seven hearings and listening sessions held across Minnesota, all of which were open to the public.
The working group, composed of a wide variety of community, advocacy, academic, foundation, mental-health, law-enforcement, and criminal-justice-system stakeholders, came to consensus on the recommendations and action steps. It is the only body in the country with membership this diverse that has taken a holistic, statewide look at the many factors that contribute to deadly force encounters and their impact on all people, systems, and communities involved in them, and has made actionable recommendations for reducing them.
“Deadly force encounters are among the hardest moments a family, an officer, a law-enforcement agency, and a community can live through. There have been lots of opinions about why they happen. We wanted to get beyond opinion and polarization to concrete recommendations and action steps that, if we implement them, will reduce them,” Attorney General Ellison said. “We’ve gotten there by bringing together a group of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences who aren’t usually invited to talk to each other about this hard topic and who stuck it out when the going got tough. And we’ve gotten there by doing the work in public and with the public, especially with family members who lost loved ones in deadly force encounters.”
"These recommendations, if implemented, will make Minnesota communities and the peace officers who serve them safer. The recommendations offer practical guidance and action steps to better prevent and respond to police-involved deadly force encounters," Commissioner Harrington said. "We brought together a knowledgeable group of stakeholders representing diverse backgrounds and professions from around the state to have the tough conversations. We heard testimony from 50 experts, including families who lost loved ones. As a result, we now have a plan of action that will reduce many deadly force encounters with police and provide justice and support when a tragedy occurs."
“This is just the beginning. Now we’ll get to work with the Legislature and partners in community, law enforcement, the criminal-justice system, and beyond to implement these recommendations and make them work,” Attorney General Ellison added.
Reducing police-involved deadly force encounters is as urgent in Minnesota as it is across the country. In 2019, 14 community members and one law-enforcement officer died in Minnesota in deadly force encounters. In addition, a police officer in Waseca who was gravely wounded in a deadly force encounter in January of this year faces a long road to recovery. No part of Minnesota is untouched: over the course of the last five years, 60 percent of the state’s more than 100 deadly-force encounters with law enforcement have taken place in Greater Minnesota.
The executive summary of the work of the working group, with all 28 recommendations and 33 actions steps, is available on the Department of Public Safety website. The working group’s full report will be released in 4-6 weeks.
Recommendations and action steps
The goal of the working group was to make actionable recommendations to all parties and communities that, if implemented, will reduce deadly force encounters with law enforcement. Notable recommendations among the 28 recommendations and 33 action steps on which working group members came to consensus include:
- Establish a liaison position in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to ensure that families of those involved in deadly force encounters are treated with dignity and respect, kept informed, and referred to services. (1.3)
- Establish a permanent “Peacemaker” office to work on dispute mediation and resolution, including after a deadly force encounter; build community capacity to resolve conflict; promote healing and restoration; and address hate crimes. (1.5)
- Adopt a co-responder model to improve outcomes for people with disabilities or who are in mental-health crisis, and ensure that officers develop skills to recognize and respond appropriately to people with disabilities and refer them to appropriate resources. (2.2, 2.7)
- Train all law-enforcement agencies in de-escalation skills and tactics to reduce use of force, especially when responding to people in crisis. (2.3)
- Remove budget sunset on and expand law-enforcement training funds, and ensure consistency statewide. (2.5)
- Create an independent, specialized unit within the BCA to investigate all officer-involved shootings and uses of force that result in death or severe bodily injury. (3.1)
- Review law and policy on body-worn cameras to ensure transparency and accountability in deadly force encounters; involve community in developing and reviewing policy; evaluate impact by 2022 and fund statewide implementation if proven effective. (3.3)
- Establish a formal, protected, non-disciplinary Sentinel Event Review to review critical incidents and identify systemic issues that need to be addressed to improve outcomes. (3.4)
- Adopt use-of-force standards that make sanctity of life a core organizational value and include requirements for de-escalation; reasonable, necessary, and proportionate use of force; duty to intervene; use of sound tactics; reporting unreasonable use of force (4.2)
- Discuss strategies to increase the role of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board in approving, suspending, or revoking officer licenses at request of chief or sheriff. (4.3)
- Establish a data-collection and reporting system that tracks all police-involved deadly force encounters. (4.4)
- Pass carefully crafted privacy protection for protected conversations for peer-support programs for first responders. (4.7)
- Collect, analyze, and publish data about police-community interactions, use of force, and deadly force encounters. (4.8)
- Expand resources, and increase statewide awareness of existing resources, to improve mental health and wellness of first responders and dispatchers. (5.1)
All 28 recommendations and 33 actions steps fall within the five pillars of working group’s mandate:
- Community healing and engagement;
- Prevention and training;
- Investigations and accountability;
- Policy and legal implications;
- Officer wellness.
Working group members established four criteria for developing recommendations:
- It falls within the mandate of the working group.
- It is likely to have an impact on reducing deadly force encounters.
- It is actionable, with identifiable steps.
- It addresses community and law-enforcement concerns.
The recommendations and action steps are informed by testimony from: family members who lost loved ones in deadly force encounters; families of peace officers involved in deadly force encounters; community members; local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies; prosecutors; academics and researchers; the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board; the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; mental health and disability advocates; Minnesota League of Cities; community-healing practitioners; the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives; police union representatives and attorneys; providers of officer mental-health and wellness programs; other tribal, local, and state representatives; the general public; and national experts in reducing use of force, policing equity and data, innovation in prosecution, constitutional law, and community engagement before, during, and after deadly force encounters.
The working group did its work over a period of six months, ending in January. None of the recommendations should be construed as support for or opposition to any currently pending legislation.
Working group background and process
Attorney General Keith Ellison and Commissioner Harrington began discussing a working group to identify ways to reduce deadly force encounters with law enforcement in early 2019, shortly after each took office. On July 22, 2019, they announced the State of Minnesota Working Group on Police-Involved Deadly Force Encounters, composed of 16 members that they chose to ensure that a cross-section of community, advocacy, academic, foundation, mental-health, law-enforcement, and criminal-justice-system stakeholders were at the table. They also chose members to ensure geographic and racial diversity. In September, Attorney General Ellison and Commissioner Harrington expanded the working group to 18 members in direct response to concerns that community expressed that members of the disability and autism community were not represented. Those 18 members stayed at the table for the duration of the process.
The working group was designed for members to listen to and learn from Minnesota-based and national researchers, experts, advocates, and each other, and especially those most directly involved in deadly force encounters: families whose loved ones lost their lives in those encounters; officers themselves, their families, and their agencies; and those tasked with investigating and prosecuting such cases.
The working group held four all-day public hearings and three evening listening sessions around Minnesota between August 2019 and January 2020:
- August 17, 2019 — all-day hearing, Saint Paul
- September 28, 2019 — all-day hearing, Mankato
- October 17, 2019 — all-day hearing, Cloquet
- December 5, 2019 — listening session, Minneapolis
- December 17, 2019 — listening session, Bemidji
- December 19, 2019 — listening session, Worthington
- January 6, 2020 — all-day hearing, Brooklyn Park
Each public hearing day was broadly organized around one of four themes: 1) investigation, oversight, and accountability; 2) prevention, training, and officer wellness; 3) policy and legal Implications; 4) community healing and mental health.
The staff and consultant team that helped guide the working group’s deliberations was led by Ron Davis, partner of 21CP Solutions. From 2013–17, Mr. Davis served as director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2014, President Obama appointed him to serve as executive director of the President’s Task Force on 21st-Century Policing, which developed concrete recommendations to improve community trust in police while enhancing public safety. Mr. Davis is also a former chief of police.
The public was invited to speak during the public comment sessions at the conclusion of each hearing and during the listening sessions, and to submit written testimony to inform the deliberations of the working group. The Department of Public Safety set up a web portal at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/co/working-group/Pages/default.aspx to provide the public with full access to hearings, agendas, submitted testimony (written and oral), and a mechanism for submitting public testimony online. All hearing and listening sessions were live-streamed, videotaped, transcribed, and posted to the website. Meeting summaries were also prepared and posted for each of the four hearings, and are provided in the appendix of the executive summary, along with the hearing agendas.
Attorney General Ellison and Commissioner Harrington also held three public listening sessions in December in Minneapolis, Bemidji, and Worthington.
In addition, starting in September, the working group established a session at the beginning of each all-day hearing that was dedicated to hearing from families who had lost loved ones in police-involved deadly force encounters, in direct response to concerns that community and family members raised early on that those voices were not adequately represented. Attorney General Ellison and Commissioner Harrington also met privately with family members who lost loved ones in police-involved deadly force encounters.
Working group members
The following people served on the working group with Commissioner Harrington and Attorney General Ellison:
- Chief Medaria Arradondo, Minneapolis Police Department
- Chanda Smith Baker, Senior Vice President of Community Impact, The Minneapolis Foundation
- Clarence Castile, community activist, uncle of Philando Castile
- Elizer Darris, field organizer, ACLU of Minnesota
- Matt Gottschalk, Director of Public Safety, City of Corcoran
- State Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (R – Alexandria, District 8)
- Judge Mark Kappelhoff, Hennepin County District Court
- Dr. Brittany Lewis, community-engaged scholar and Senior Research Associate, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota
- State Representative Rena Moran (DFL – Saint Paul, District 65A)
- Justin Page, staff attorney, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid/Minnesota Disability Law Center
- Patina Park, president/CEO, Minnesota Indian Women's Resource Center
- Brian Peters, executive director, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association
- Chief Sara Rice, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Tribal Police Department
- County Attorney Mark Rubin, St. Louis County
- Sheriff Kevin Torgerson, Olmsted County
- Dr. Artika Tyner, professor and director, Center on Race, Leadership, and Social Justice, University of St. Thomas School of Law