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Minnesota Lawmakers Ban Police Chokeholds, 'Warrior-Style Training'

The Minnesota Legislature has approved a bill to revise rules on police use of force in response to the killing of George Floyd. Here, a boy runs past a mural at a memorial to Floyd outside Cup Foods.
Leila Navidi
Star Tribune via Getty Images
The Minnesota Legislature has approved a bill to revise rules on police use of force in response to the killing of George Floyd. Here, a boy runs past a mural at a memorial to Floyd outside Cup Foods.

Minnesota lawmakers have voted to ban police use of chokeholds, part of a law enforcement accountability measure sparked by the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police offer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The bill's most high-profile sections would place new limits on police use of force and prohibit "warrior-style training" — which encourages officers to act aggressively in a way that "deemphasizes the value of human life or constitutional rights," the legislation states.

If Gov. Tim Walz signs the measure as expected, many of the changes would take effect immediately.

The governor praised the legislation on Tuesday as "a critical step toward justice."

"I look forward to signing these long-overdue reforms to strengthen transparency and community oversight, ban chokeholds and warrior training, expand de-escalation training for officers, and reduce the use of deadly force," Walz said via Twitter.

The legislation package explicitly states that law enforcement officers have a "duty to intercede and report" if they see a colleague breaking use-of-force rules, regardless of their relative tenure or seniority.

Floyd's death on May 25 caused outrage over police use of deadly force and led to sustained protest movements in dozens of U.S. cities. All four police officers involved in the incident were fired the day after Floyd was killed. They now face criminal charges that range from aiding and abetting to second-degree murder.

"That killing touched off a massive outrage of Minnesotans from all communities — Black, white, brown, urban, suburban, rural," said state Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, according to member station Minnesota Public Radio.

The newly passed state legislation calls for officers to receive counseling and stress management, and requires new police training that emphasizes crisis resolution. The additional training would focus on improving how officers interact with people with autism, respond to mental illness crises and recognize cultural differences.

The bill reflects a bipartisan process that ended in the final hours on the final day of the Legislature's special session, which stretched past midnight into the early hours of Tuesday. Minnesota's Senate is controlled by Republicans, and its House is controlled by Democrats. Walz is a Democrat.

"A spokesperson for Walz says the governor supports the compromise, which passed 102-29 in the House and 60-7 in the Senate," as MPR reports.

Other changes in the bill include a push to add more transparency to arbitration procedures in disciplinary cases, and a section that allows cities or counties to pay incentives to officers to entice them to live in the jurisdiction where they work.

The Minnesota measure was passed one month after the City of Minneapolis agreed to forbid its police force from using chokeholds and neck restraints, under an agreement with the state Department of Human Rights. The state agency had opened a civil rights investigationinto the city's police department after Floyd's death.

Several large police departments in the U.S. and the state of New York have already banned police use of chokeholds — a move that activists say is key to lessening police violence. But a recent NPR review of the effects of such bans questioned their longterm effects, as the revised policies were found to be "largely ineffective and subject to lax enforcement."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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