Minneapolis Star Tribune. April 27, 2021.

Editorial: The 2020 census: Nice job, Minnesota

It took years of planning and strong execution to save the state's eighth seat in Congress.

Minnesota has successfully hung onto all eight of its congressional seats, thanks to a top-in-the-nation turnout for the most recent U.S. census, the decennial count of the nation's population.

That it did so was no fluke, but the result of years of work, planning, preparation and then execution under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. Minnesota had been in serious danger of losing a congressional seat, until a broad coalition of foundations, community groups, tribal nations, corporations and strong partnership with the state demographer's office went to work, starting as far back as 2015.

In the end, Minnesota won out by a mere 89 people, claiming the 435th seat in Congress over New York. "If New York had counted 90 more people, that would have been it," said Bob Tracy, formerly of the Minnesota Council on Foundations. Tracy, who helped lead that census work, told an editorial writer, "I've had a pretty damn big smile on my face all day."

And while political representation is important, more than a seat was at stake. Tracy estimates that each additional Minnesotan counted represented nearly $2,000 more in federal funds per person per year tied to the census. "A lot of people didn't fully appreciate how information from the census affected investment in their community, that it meant money for parks and schools and services," he said.

State Demographer Susan Brower said earlier that had Minnesota lost a seat, each of the remaining seven districts would have had to grow by 102,000 people, forcing districts in Greater Minnesota to take in even more geographical territory. "Our great self-response rate gave Minnesota an edge over other states that didn't respond so thoroughly," she said.

States that lost representation in Congress included some far larger than Minnesota. In addition to New York, they included California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Tracy credited ground operations that relied on trusted members in historically undercounted areas, including immigrant communities, far-flung rural areas, and minority communities. "From the start we brought to the table the notion that to get the best count possible, we had to build inclusion and equity, really engaging a whole new set of partners, a whole new population of Minnesotans," he said. "One of the first things those communities said was that they weren't hard to count, it was just that no one let them do it the way it needed to be done." The job was made immeasurably harder by the global pandemic and the fight by the Trump administration to institute a citizenship question, which ultimately failed.

And that network, now in place, will pay dividends far beyond the census, the political representation and even federal funds. Those collaborations were also mobilized to increase voter turnout and are being tapped to begin the work on the 2030 census.

When it comes to civic engagement, Minnesotans are accustomed to leading, as proven by top voter turnout. Now it applies to the census as well, with tangible benefits.

Well done, Minnesota.

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St. Cloud Times. April 23, 2021.

Editorial: The next step in Minnesota policing reform is obvious — so why the holdup?

The American justice system has done its work in what might be the most-witnessed murder in human history. It's not a time for rejoicing, however. It's time to redouble the work.

In finding former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd, the Hennepin County jurors made a rare statement that wearing a badge doesn't put officers above the law.

That an officer being held criminally culpable is rare is telling in two ways: First, that support for law enforcement has been so strong in the United States that officers have had the overwhelming benefit of the doubt, rarely facing charges. And second, that despite the horrific string of bad police behavior that has come into focus during the past several years — thanks to the widespread ability to instantly record events — most police officers on most days in most cities and towns do the right things for the right reasons.

It is possible for both things to be true: Most police officers do not abuse their positions, but those who do have inflicted untold damage and they have not historically and systematically been held to account.

We share the hope of millions of Americans that the repercussions of George Floyd's death will be far-reaching. The United States is at a reckoning point on questions about appropriate use of force and the disparities of policing based on race and wealth.

Among the most immediate of those repercussions: Two days after the Chauvin verdict, the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board took steps toward banning the licensing of people with ties to white supremacy groups as police officers in Minnesota.

Think about that.

If your first reaction is that it couldn't possibly be necessary, POST Board chair and Mendota Heights Police Chief Kelly McCarthy said it's been established that white supremacy groups have tried to infiltrate U.S. law enforcement. "Any problem that exists in society exists in the police officer ranks, because we are members of society," McCarthy said in a Jan. 19 Session Daily report.

Shockingly, the move to change the rules via the POST Board is billed as a backup plan in case Minnesota legislators don't pass a law this session that would do the same. Now think about that.

Lawmakers arguing against banning literal KKK members from wearing our police uniforms are using the First Amendment as their sword. The argument is that banning members of, for instance, the Aryan Brotherhood, from peace officers' licenses would violate their constitutional right to freedom of association.

"Whether we agree with it or not, they have the right to associate," said Senate Judiciary chair Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, as reported by FOX 9. "I'm very concerned about putting this in the bill. I agree with you on the repugnancy of white supremacy."

Also repugnant: employing the First Amendment to defend the ability of racists to be raised to armed positions of life-and-death authority over the public.

Such a measure the height of common sense. And we question the purported First Amendment violation he cites. A ban on police licensing of white supremacists does not preclude them from becoming a Proud Boy. It only demands that they choose between being a Proud Boy or a police officer.

Also of note: Many police agencies, like many other types of workplaces, already have policies about what kinds of organizations its employees can join. We think white nationalist groups are an obvious choice for such policies.

The guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin should have been a foregone conclusion. That it wasn't is our shame as a nation. The witnesses' work on the street last Memorial Day weekend, the rare cracking of the blue wall of silence in court and the jury's verdict did not end our problem.

But all of those contributions did set us on a path to reform policing in America. It can be more effective for communities, safer for officers, less militarized and less defensive. If we want it to be.

But that will only happen when we abandon the binary thinking that says you either support the thin blue line or you support criminals. That fallacy has divided us when it is clearly possible to respect the work of officers and the risks they take while also expecting better as they work in our name.

Codifying that avowed racists are not acceptable members of our police forces seems like a good place to start. That there is any debate on the point is, quite frankly, stunning.

The Minnesota House has already passed a measure. The Senate hasn't taken action. The POST Board rulemaking process is the failsafe. Let's get this on the books.

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Mankato Free Press. April 28, 2021.

Editorial: Police training: MSU grads prepare for harsh realities

Classes of law enforcement students were unanimous in their belief that the use of force by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin on George Floyd was unjustifiable. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it speaks to the small movement, perhaps, in attitudes about use of force, police and race among young people seeking careers in law enforcement.

An in-depth report by The Free Press in Sunday's edition showed MSU professors were bringing their students the reality of the high-pressure career they are seeking. Professors put regular curriculum aside to discuss the George Floyd, Daunte Wright and seemingly endless list of other cases of deadly force against people of color.

The students also were discussing new ethical duties they face in turning in their fellow officers for excessive use of force, a new requirement in state law passed last year. They were discussing protests and public perception of law enforcement.

On the bright side, many students, according to their professors, seem undaunted by recent events in their willingness to serve, and as MSU professor Carl Lafata said, have a conviction to "be the change they want to see." That's good news.

They will face a different world of policing. Not only has public perceptionchanged dramatically, but the public activism through protest and other forums comes down squarely on the entire profession, fairly or not.

The use of force laws changed in Minnesota last year after the Floyd murder. Various tactics have been outlawed, including chokeholds and neck restraints. Officers are required to report other officers who use excessive force, and standards for officer disciplinary actions were toughened.

Deadly force standards also now carry requirements for preserving the "sanctity of every human life." Standards for when deadly force is allowed also call for stricter ways to measure an officer's "reasonable" behavior.

So yes, graduates face a rapidly changing law enforcement world. And the Minnesota State system, which graduates about 80 percent of Minnesota officers, also implemented new teaching standards that call for stress and psychological training as well as cultural competency education and practicum-like experiences where graduating officers spend time in communities of color.

Lafata alluded to the long culture of the blue wall of silence in his advice to students when they may come up against a police administration that frowns on reporting other officers for misconduct.

"Change won't happen unless officers are willing to do the right thing regardless of personal or professional cost," he told The Free Press. "That is a significant thing to ask of officers, but it should be a sacrifice they are prepared and willing to make in order to preserve the public's trust and faith in law enforcement."

Indeed, for graduates of the MSU program, the most difficult part of being a peace officer may have nothing to do with book learning. It will be the ethical and moral role officers will play in a physically and psychologically-charged environment where their goal will not be so much law and order but peace and understanding.

END