Law enforcement officials striving to improve police handling of sexual assaults in Minnesota said Thursday that they’re on track to meet a January deadline to recommend specific reforms.
The recommendations will include a model policy on investigating sexual assault — one that all of Minnesota’s 450-plus law enforcement agencies could be required to adopt. A second reform would address specialized sexual assault training for officers.
The reforms are being hammered out in two work groups formed by the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board, which oversees professional standards and licensing for all Minnesota law enforcement officers.
The work groups are a response to the findings of the Star Tribune investigation “Denied Justice,” which documented chronic and widespread failings in police work on rape and other sexual assaults.
In brief progress reports at a POST Board meeting Thursday in St. Paul, its two work groups said they’ll be ready as the upcoming Legislative session gets underway.
Stephanie Revering, a POST Board member and the police chief of Crystal, said the investigations model policy group has met twice. The dozen members include Safia Khan, from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, Roseville Police Chief Rick Mathwig and Crosby Police Lt. Kevin Randolph.
Rebecca Swanson, a POST Board member and law enforcement instructor at Alexandria Technical and Community College, said the sexual assault training group is scheduled to meet through December. That group has about 20 members, including Kristin Boomer, a Bloomington police detective and treasurer of the Minnesota Sex Crimes Investigators Association; Nicole Matthews of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition; Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith; and Briana Temple of the Central Minnesota Sexual Assault Center.
A separate task force, appointed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, has been meeting to draw up similar proposals. It, too, includes law enforcement officials as well as leaders such as Teri Walker McLaughlin, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Paul Young, criminal division chief at the Anoka County Attorney’s Office.
A third POST Board working group is examining how the board approves continuing education classes for peace officers across the state. Community groups have been pressing it to tighten its oversight, particularly regarding courses offered by an Illinois company called Calibre Press. One of the company’s courses, formerly called “Bulletproof Warrior,” has triggered controversy because it teaches that officers are under constant threat from the public and must be prepared to aggressively defend themselves. The course is approved by the POST Board for continuing education.
In public comments Thursday, Dave Bicking, of Communities United Against Police Brutality, noted that Calibre Press is not one of the POST Board’s accredited sponsors.
POST Board Executive Director Nate Gove has said his agency doesn’t have the money to handle all the changes. It has an annual budget of $4 million, most of which flows to local police departments and sheriff’s offices to reimburse them for training expenses. The money comes from a surcharge on certain criminal offenses and traffic tickets.
“Those revenues have been declining and we are very concerned about how that will shake out,” Gove said, adding that he expects a deficit of as much as $400,000.
Gove wants to increase the percentage of the surcharge directed to the POST Board. He also plans to ask lawmakers for $100,000 to hire a person to handle the complex administrative rule-making process his agency faces.