Some of the state's largest police organizations on Friday said the sweeping police reform proposals that Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott unveiled last weekend are misguided and would conflict with state law if enacted.
It alarmed police that the resolution seemed to call for using unarmed civilians to make traffic stops and also restricted the powers of arrest, among other issues, said Jim Mortenson, executive director of the 6,400-member Law Enforcement Labor Services police union.
"If you're going to make dramatic changes like this, you should at least talk to the people that do the work," Mortenson said. The police union represents the officers in Brooklyn Center, but union officials were not aware of the resolution before Elliott brought it before the City Council on Saturday, he said. The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association added that the mayor should bring Acting Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tony Gruenig into the talks as well.
Brooklyn Center City Attorney Troy Gilchrist responded Friday afternoon with a statement saying the mayor's resolution is a framework for further discussion and that anything the council eventually passes would comply with the law. He added that the views of police leaders will be welcomed as the city rethinks its police department.
The call for reform comes amid similar conversations elsewhere in Minnesota and across the country. On Friday, the Minneapolis city clerk's office announced that residents likely will get to vote in November on whether to replace the police department.
The Brooklyn Center resolution is named for Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler, both young Black men who were killed by Brooklyn Center police. It outlines changes — including how the city conducts traffic stops and responds to mental health calls — that in theory could have altered their interactions with law enforcement.
Elliott has urged the council to act and plans to hold another meeting Saturday to vote on the resolution. If it passes, it would go to an implementation committee chosen by the mayor to work out details.
"The important thing is that we're really moving in a direction that's going to be very inclusive of all the stakeholders," Elliott said in an interview.
"The community is expecting us to take action, quite frankly."
A letter Friday by Law Enforcement Labor Services, the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, as well as a second letter from the Chiefs of Police Association, said the mayor should meet with police leaders to talk out the reform ideas.
"Changes in police operations must be methodical, well thought out and researched before they are made into best practices," the two-page union letter said.
If Brooklyn Center were to hire unarmed civilians to make traffic stops, for example, it would violate state laws that say only a trained officer with a Peace Officers Standards and Training license can make such a stop, according to Mortenson. Drivers would eventually ignore, flee or even confront the civilians attempting to stop them, the letter said.
The mayor's resolution also calls for mental health professionals to respond to calls. But police often don't know what's going to happen when they respond to mental health calls, and many mental health professionals wouldn't be prepared if things turned violent, Mortenson said.
The two professions already work closely together, despite what Elliott's resolution suggests, he said.
"It's not that we can't do better, but it makes it sound like none of this has ever been a part of the equation," Mortenson said.
Elliott's resolution has another conflict with state law that could endanger victims of domestic violence, said Jeff Potts of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.
The resolution says officers should not make arrests in misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cases, but state law requires an arrest for nonfelony domestic violence.
The police want to address police reform, Mortenson said, but he objected to what he called the demonizing of police officers. Civilians have taken a more defiant tone with officers in recent months and it's made it more difficult to do an already stressful job, he said. Large numbers of police officers have either walked away from the job or are actively searching for another career.
"There's a lot of evil people in this world and ... someone has to stand up and deal with them. When that gunfire goes off, you've got citizens running one way and the cops running the other way," he said. "Can you imagine a world where you call 911 and no one comes?"
Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329