Aspiring police officers attending public colleges in Minnesota may soon be required to take classes on anti-racism and complete internships in diverse communities if recommendations from a task force on law enforcement education reform are accepted.
The task force, which was formed by the Minnesota State colleges and universities system last summer in response to George Floyd's death, presented its recommendations to the system's board of trustees Tuesday. The Minnesota State college system trains approximately 80% of state police officers through 22 certified professional programs. Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, attended a Minnesota State community college, as did the three other officers charged in Floyd's death.
"The death of George Floyd is an urgent reminder for the reform of law enforcement in Minnesota. In Minnesota State, we've taken these initial steps to claim a leadership role in reforming the education and training of peace officers in the state of Minnesota," said Satasha Green-Stephen, the system's associate vice chancellor of academic affairs and one of the task force's leaders.
Task force members recommended infusing cultural competency and anti-racist concepts into all law enforcement and criminal justice programs in addition to requiring specific courses and work experience in diverse communities. They suggested revising crisis-intervention and trauma-informed trainings to be more culturally responsive and assessing students' cultural competency and implicit biases upon entry to and exit from law enforcement programs.
Other recommendations include recruiting more diverse law enforcement students and faculty, establishing advisory committees for each system program and expanding opportunities for current police officers to learn about anti-racism and cultural competency.
"The resulting recommendations provide a robust framework which not only focuses on the needed educational outcomes for new students but also focuses on providing current peace officers opportunities for lifelong learning," Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra said.
The board of trustees is expected to approve the task force's recommendations during its Wednesday meeting.
Some of the recommendations can be implemented immediately while others will take longer to apply, Green-Stephen said. Minnesota State leaders will work with the Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training to ensure the curriculum changes meet state standards.
Members of the board of trustees praised the task force's work as comprehensive and forward-thinking on Tuesday. The task force — whose members included students, faculty, law enforcement and community members — convened monthly from August through February.
"This work is brilliant," Trustee Cheryl Tefer said. "I am so proud, and I am so hopeful."
Priscilla Mayowa, a task force member and president of the statewide community college student association LeadMN, struck a more skeptical tone. "My biggest concern … is that these recommendations will result in no real change."
Mayowa asked trustees to hold the chancellor accountable for ensuring the recommendations are fully implemented. She also urged administrators to seek more input from community members who have been hurt by police brutality and reconsider how they promote law enforcement programs to prospective students.
"A promotional video with multiple gun shooting scenes is an example of what we don't want," she said.
Hennepin Technical College President Merrill Irving Jr. expressed similar feelings, telling trustees that changing the way aspiring cops are taught is not just an "overnight quest."
"People like to say that these are brave and courageous conversations. I like to think of them more as needed and necessary conversations," said Irving, who also sat on the task force.