The chairman of Minnesota’s police licensing board said Thursday he plans to recommend that it adopt a model policy designed to improve sex assault investigations across the state.
Tim Bildsoe, chairman of the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, also said he’s calling a special meeting of his executive committee early next month to address the findings of a Star Tribune investigation that documented pervasive failings in police work on rape and other sexual assaults.
“Fundamentally, this is an issue of supervision, accountability and resources within each law enforcement agency across the state,” Bildsoe told board members at their meeting Thursday. “Most agencies get it right, but some fail, as the article detailed.”
Bildsoe also said he wants to convene a forum of “stakeholders, experts and advocates” to advise the board on a model policy.
Bildsoe’s announcement came less than 24 hours after Gov. Mark Dayton sent board members a strongly worded letter directing them to “immediately develop procedures and training requirements for peace officers investigating cases involving sex crimes.”
“Legislative direction is not required for the POST Board to act,” Dayton wrote.
In an interview, Bildsoe said his decision to call the special meeting had “nothing to do” with Dayton’s letter, however, and was something he had planned anyway following the Star Tribune special report.
Bildsoe told board members that he spoke Tuesday afternoon with Dayton’s office.
On Tuesday, speaking with reporters at the Capitol, Dayton blasted the POST board’s executive director, Nate Gove, for “lethargic” responses when the Star Tribune interviewed him before publishing the first installment in its investigation.
Bildsoe voiced his support for Gove on Thursday.
After the meeting, Gove said that when he was interviewed, he was responding to the Star Tribune’s data findings, not to the wrenching ordeals described by women who had reported being raped. He noted that, at the time, he had not seen the videos of rape victims describing their experiences.
“I didn’t have the ability to see the individual cases until I read it in the paper,” he said. “It was just bulk data. Now you see the cases, they’re disturbing.”
Clash over training
The POST Board licenses more than 10,000 sworn peace officers across Minnesota and sets training and professional standards. It’s an independent state regulatory board within the executive branch, and its 15 members are appointed by the governor.
Most members are current or former law enforcement professionals. Bildsoe, an insurance professional, is one of a few civilian members.
The tradition-bound board sees itself as having a narrow mission and spends a good deal of time on education matters, clashing with some community groups and advocates who want it to take a more active role in overseeing police conduct.
Thursday’s meeting, for instance, was filled with protesters urging the board to decertify a police training course that had been known as “Bulletproof Warrior” because, they say, it leaves officers feeling like they are under constant threat from the public.
“We are urging you to decertify these courses and to step up to your responsibilities as a board that oversees the training of police officers,” said Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality.
Creating a model policy on sexual assault investigations will require the board to undertake a rule-making process that can be drawn out and expensive. The board may need to ask for more money for the task, said Bildsoe and Gove.
The board’s budget comes not from general fund tax dollars, but from special surcharges on criminal offenses and traffic tickets. That revenue is shrinking, Gove said, and will crimp the agency’s finances in coming years.
Gove and Bildsoe said they want to see the Legislature extend a special four-year infusion of money the POST Board is getting for training. Based on 2017 legislation, the board is to get $6 million of general fund money per year for four years to reimburse chiefs and sheriffs for mandated training on crisis intervention, conflict management and cultural diversity. The infusion ends in 2022.