Minnesota's largest law enforcement lobbying groups are suing the state over a 2020 law change governing police use of force after failing to persuade the Legislature to push back a deadline for training officers in the new requirements.
The suit, filed Friday in Ramsey County District Court, is asking a judge to declare unconstitutional legislation passed last summer after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
The four groups — the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, and Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc. — allege the new use-of-force standards unconstitutionally compel officers to forfeit their rights to refuse to testify against themselves in deadly force cases.
Filed against Gov. Tim Walz and the state of Minnesota, the suit also seeks an injunction to delay implementation of certain new requirements "that were intended to require training and for which there has been insufficient time and opportunity to engage in the requisite training."
Claire Lancaster, spokeswoman for the governor, said their office is reviewing the lawsuit and will work with the Legislature to determine whether clarifying language is necessary.
Under the 2020 law change, law enforcement officers can no longer justify deadly force to protect themselves or another person from "apparent" death or great bodily harm. The new law struck the word "apparent" and now reads "to protect the peace officer or another from death or great bodily harm."
The change also added new conditions that the threat be "articulated with specificity" by the officer, is "reasonably likely to occur absent action by the law enforcement officer" and "must be addressed through use of deadly force without unreasonable delay."
The groups argue that Minnesota law enforcement agencies haven't had an opportunity to receive training in the new requirements, saying they received guidance from the Department of Public Safety less than two weeks before the law was set to take effect in March.
"The process that led to last year's law change was rushed under unprecedented circumstances," said Brian Peters, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. "This law should have been fixed, but since the legislative session has now concluded, it is necessary to turn to the legal system."
The law enforcement groups say that some police chiefs and sheriffs in neighboring states have refused to assist neighboring Minnesota agencies over concerns about the new requirements. Multiple agencies in North Dakota have since removed officers from interstate task forces, they said.
Jim Mortenson, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services, said the law was "not only unconstitutional but impractical" in terms of resources and the time frame.
"When it comes to laws regarding the use of deadly force, it is imperative that we get it right," Mortenson said.
Attorney General Keith Ellison could not be reached for comment.