State police licensing board proposes tougher standards

Tony Webster/MGN

New rules could deny candidates for hate group affiliations

A state body that licenses police officers may soon make changes to how background checks for officers are conducted. To ward off racists and those who lied in court, the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, known as the POST Board, has proposed changes over the past three years.

The proposed changes have the support of social justice organizations but are opposed by police boosters. 

Today, the POST Board requires background checks for police officer candidates to scrutinize their names, addresses, social media accounts, police departments they have applied to in the past six years, and their personnel files if they were ever an officer. 

They also require candidates to disclose if they could be impeached in court or hindered by Brady-Giglio impairment because of their behavior. The Brady-Giglio name comes from two court cases that determined the police officer, who must work with the prosecutor to prosecute a case, needs to provide evidence that can be favorable to the defendant as well as to check a witness’ account. 

Officers who are dishonest, tamper with witnesses, withhold evidence favorable to the defendant, or lie in court can be placed on this list by a prosecutor. 

The proposed rules expand and clarify what police officer candidates are required to disclose. They include whether or not they have abused their authority, used excessive force, discriminated against a protected class such as race or income, have been convicted of a felony or for being dishonest, mishandled evidence or property, tampered with witnesses or suspects, misused government data, or if a prosecutor listed them on a Brady-Giglio list.

The rules also propose to prohibit anyone from becoming a police officer who has been a part of an extremist or hate group. The Board proposes to define hate groups as those that discriminate against race, income, public assistance, or another protected class, as well as if the affiliated group wants to overthrow the government.

Participating in a hate group is defined as promoting or posting about the group anywhere, including on social media, going to events, giving them money, and displaying signs and codes such as tattoos or hand symbols. 

Some community members support the proposals because they would screen out police officers who are prejudiced against people who don’t look like them. “As the mother of a Black son who experienced a terrible and inappropriate interaction with a White [Minneapolis Police] officer at the age of 15, it is obvious that racially discriminatory and biased policing occurs,” said Alexa Ricciardi. “At the very least, the law enforcement entrusted with fairly and safely policing BIPOC communities should not be allowed to espouse White supremacist views.”

Some police officers and groups who represent them oppose the proposed rules for a number of reasons. Aaron Nestrud, a Hennepin County Sheriff’s detective, believes those who want to be officers should have a chance to explain themselves. “The rules overall seem politically motivated, which is not something that improves our profession,” said Nestrud in written comments to the POST Board. “I support the goals of increased recruitment and retention of the best officers, but this isn’t it.”

At the special meeting POST Board members held on December 1, they made changes to clarify the language in the proposed rules. Some changes include clarifying that the officer must disclose if they are aware a prosecutor put them on a Brady-Giglio list, as well as allowing officers to provide context about why they did what they did. 

The Board will meet again on December 9 at their headquarters at Snelling and University Avenues to finalize the changes. The meeting will only be held in person. Although the POST Board will make a meeting video available afterward, it will not be live-streamed.

The POST Board will accept comments from the public on the proposed policy until December 6 at 4:30 pm. From December 7 to December 13 at 4:30 pm, the public will have the opportunity to respond to comments made in the initial period. Comments can be made by going to bit.ly/MNPOSTBoardComments.

An administrative law judge will review the comments and make a decision sometime between mid-January to mid-February.

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