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Pohlad Family Foundation to fund recommendations for reducing police-involved deadly-force encounters

One year after release of recommendations, working group co-led by AG and DPS commissioner meets again to review progress, investments


February 26, 2021

February 25, 2021 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, joined by Governor Tim Walz, Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington, and Pohlad Family Foundation Vice President and Executive Director Susan Bass Roberts, announced today that the Pohlad Family Foundation has committed $3 million, through a partnership with the National League of Cities, to fund implementation of the recommendations of the State of Minnesota Working Group on Police-Involved Deadly-Force Encounters.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the working group, held to mark the anniversary of the release of the working group’s executive summary and recommendations one year ago. At today’s meeting, working group members also reviewed updates about the considerable progress that has been made in implementing the working group’s 28 recommendations and 33 action steps, as well as Governor Walz’s latest proposed budget investments for implementing more of the working group’s recommendations and action steps.

“A lot has happened in just one year — and all of it has pointed to the continued need to implement these carefully considered recommendations, and the urgency of doing so,” Attorney General Ellison said. “I’m pleased with the substantial progress we’ve made in the last year, and there is more to do. The time to implement these recommendations is not when the next deadly-force encounter happens, but before it happens.

“I continue to be grateful for all the people who testified, especially the families who are still suffering the loss of a loved one from a deadly-force encounter, and for the dedication and determination of the working group members to see the process through. I’m proud that we in Minnesota set a national model for coming together and staying together through our differences and disagreements to making concrete recommendations. When we implement them, we will reduce deadly-force encounters,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.

“George Floyd’s death sparked a national conversation on race and policing,” said Governor Tim Walz. “The only way we can move forward is with diverse range of voices at the table having difficult conversations. That’s exactly what this working group has done. Their recommendations informed the Police Accountability Act I signed in July, and will continue to guide our police accountability work. I’m incredibly grateful for the leaders who’ve come to the table with expertise and commitment, and for our partners like the Pohlad Family Foundation who will help ensure we can implement these changes.”

“We came together from very different backgrounds and perspectives, but we are united in finding ways to reduce deadly force encounters. We have found in the last year that it is not impossible to do this work, but it takes all of us to ensure we succeed. The progress that has been made on the working group’s recommendations is proof that there is commitment to change and common ground on solutions,” said Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington.

“The Pohlad Family Foundation supports racial-justice efforts that are community-based and draw upon a wide range of expertise,” Susan Bass Roberts, vice president and executive director of the Pohlad Family Foundation, said. “The recommendations of this working group resonated with us because they were practical and actionable, and most importantly, because people who have had negative encounters with law enforcement had a role in defining the solutions.”

“We always said this was just the beginning, and the support of the Pohlad Family Foundation inspires action and builds important momentum to continue the critical implementation work ahead,” Commissioner Harrington added.

Investment from Pohlad Family Foundation

In 2002, the Pohlad family committed $25 million to advance racial justice in the Twin Cities. One of the Pohlad Family Foundation’s three Racial Justice programs is Reimagining Public Safety. As part of its Reimagining Public Safety program, the Foundation announced that it is committing $3 million in a partnership with the National League of Cities to support the working group’s recommendations and similar efforts at municipal and county levels and ensure that recommendations have the resources to be implemented.

The Foundation will issue a Request for Proposal on March 15, 2021. The RFP aims to:

• Innovate and transform traditional approaches to public safety.

• Reduce the occurrence and severity of negative encounters between law enforcement and the community.

• Actively confront racial disparities and history of racism to improve safety, trust and greater wellbeing for Black communities.

The Foundation is looking for applicants from the seven-county metro area who will partner with a broad range of stakeholders on proposals such as:

• Adoption or expansion of co-responder, community responder or similar models that focus on de-escalation of negative encounters with law enforcement.

• Strategies that offer a range of response options for how calls to 911 are categorized and dispatched.

• Workforce recruitment, training and skill development specific to efforts that increase racial diversity and foster an anti-racist work culture.

• Practices that increase transparency and increase accountability.

• Efforts that incorporate trauma, healing and restorative approaches.

• Efforts that include solutions and resources from within the local community that promote public safety and broader wellbeing.

Governor’s budget investments in recommendations of working group

In his budget for the 2021-23 biennium, Governor Walz has proposed investing $4.2 million in to address several working group recommendations:

• $1.2 million annually to establish and maintain the Minnesota Heals Program, broken into:

o $400,000 in grants for community healing following a traumatic event;

o $400,000 to establish a Statewide Critical Incident Stress Management Services Office for first responders;

o $400,000 for grants for trauma services and burial costs for families following an officer-involved death or the death of an officer.

• $3 million in FY2022 for Innovations in Policing grants to incentivize municipalities, counties, and tribal governments to implement transformative strategies connected to preventing and reducing police-involved deadly force encounters. For planning purposes, for pilots, for implementation, or to enhance the services of:

o Community-based mental health and trauma-informed services that can provide alternatives to arrest and booking;

o Differential (alternative) responses applied to 911 calls for service;

o Training beyond minimum requirements for peace officers and 911 dispatchers.

Progress report

In the year since the working group released its 28 recommendations and 33 action steps, substantial, measurable progress has been made on 23 of them. The passage of the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020 is a significant source of that progress. Among its provisions, the Act:

• Modifies the threshold for police use of deadly force.

• Establishes a separate independent investigations unit for Police-Involved Deadly Force cases at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

• Requires all law enforcement agencies to update their written policies on use of force to include the requirements of 1) Duty to Intervene in excessive force situations, 2) Duty to Report illegal use of force, and 3) an officer must first consider less lethal measures before applying deadly force.

• Requires all law enforcement agencies in Minnesota to report to the BCA all incidents of use of force that result in serious bodily injury or death to the BCA.

• Requires the BCA to develop and implement a Mandatory Use of Force Reporting tracking system.

• Strengthens the role of Minnesota Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Board.

• Provides public safety peer counseling and data-privacy protections for officer wellness.

The Governor and Legislature also provided significant funding in 2020 for these and other measures related to reducing deadly-force encounters.

With that authorization and funding, the BCA is creating its Use of Force Investigations Section. This unit will focus exclusively on use of force investigations, criminal sexual conduct violations involving peace officers, and conflict of interest investigations where public officials are accused of crimes. This unit is separate from the rest of the BCA’s investigation division in their chain of command and are even housed separately at the BCA Headquarters facility.

Among other notable updates, just under one year ago, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension established and hired for a new Victim, Family, and Community Relations Coordinator position to ensure that survivors of police-involved deadly-force encounters and families of those who have died in them are treated respectfully, provided timely information on a consistent basis, and given access to appropriate resources and services.

All of the progress in the last year on the working group’s recommendations and action steps is available on the working group’s website.

About the working group on reducing police-involved deadly-force encounters

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.

To date, 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.

Working group members conducted four all-day hearings and three listening sessions around the state between August 2019 and January 2020. At working group hearings, members heard 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.

On February 24, 2020, the working group released an executive summary of its work along with its 28 recommendations and 33 actions steps, all of which fell within the five pillars of the mandate the working get for itself: community healing; prevention and training; investigations and accountability; policy and legal implications; officer wellness.

Among the notable recommendations are:

• 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. (Recommendation 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)

An expanded report, which will include the one-year progress updates delivered today, will be released shortly.


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