Deep frustration and grief spilled out across three hours of tearful testimony Thursday by families of loved ones killed by police as they urged lawmakers to act on a series of new reforms before the legislative session ends.
"I invite any of you to just really put yourself in my shoes … and imagine it is your kid and that this is what I have to do to try to get people to do what's right: come tell my story and retraumatize myself every time," said Amity Dimock, whose 21-year-old son Kobe Dimock-Heisler, who was struggling with mental illness, was killed by Brooklyn Center police during a welfare check in 2019.
"And half the time [I'm] doing it not even believing that the people I'm going to talk to are going to do what's right because I talked to a lot of you already and nothing has been done."
Minnesota House Democrats used Thursday's joint public safety conference committee meeting to put the families' stories on full display before formally putting forward 12 policing bills as part of their offer to the GOP-led Senate.
The proposals include new limits governing police traffic stops and when officers can arrest people for missing court dates for certain non-felony charges. The offer also includes changes to the state licensing board's police misconduct database, a ban on officers affiliating with white supremacist groups and a model policy for law enforcement responses to public assemblies.
Minnesota Democrats have prioritized expanding on the package of reforms passed last summer after George Floyd's police killing in Minneapolis, and calls for further new laws have grown after the Brooklyn Center police shooting of Daunte Wright. Senate Republican leaders, insistent on narrowly focusing on the state budget this session, said they wouldn't hold public hearings on police reform but would debate the proposals in conference committee.
Thursday's hearing was heavy on testimony in support of proposals that also included new regulations on no-knock warrants and eliminating statutes of limitations for wrongful deaths at the hands of police. The House DFL offer also includes a proposal to let communities create citizen oversight councils for police, new requirements to give families access to body camera footage after deadly police encounters and a requirement that health professionals join police in responding to mental health crisis calls.
Rep. Carlos Mariani, the St. Paul Democrat co-chairing the committee, said Thursday's meeting was intended to spotlight the urgency of acting on more police accountability measures. Mariani's counterpart, Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said Republicans would respond to the offer "within a day or two."
"We had an eye-opening respectful discussion," Limmer said. "I want to thank all of those, especially family members, who had to open up their hearts again to the circumstances that got them here. We're listening carefully."
Wright's mother, Katie Wright, spoke in favor of new requirements limiting when police can stop motorists. She described receiving the phone call from her son in the moments before he died, when he told her he was being stopped because of a dangling air freshener.
"One of the last things my son ever did was to call to tell me he was being pulled over and to ask what he should do," Wright said, later adding: "An air freshener should not be a death sentence. Further civilian oversight should remind law enforcement that we are all part of the same community."
Brandon Williams, Floyd's nephew, pleaded with the group to continue to pursue new laws to ensure that just as his uncle's life had meaning, his death would also be "the catalyst for change."
"All of the meetings are cool but we need actions, we need things happening and not just talked about," Williams said. "And we need it done with urgency."