Committee recommends ways to improve police, community relations

Some protesters stood on the frontage road showing solidarity.
Some protesters stood on the frontage road showing solidarity while others faced off with police before leaving the freeway on June 16, 2017.
Courtney Perry for MPR News File

A Minnesota advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has released a draft report recommending a dozen ways to improve the relationship between communities and police departments in the state.

Each state has an advisory committee associated with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — Minnesota's is made up of 12 members and chaired by Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel.

The issue of police use of force has been a prominent one in Minnesota in the last two years. Jamar Clark was killed by Minneapolis police officers in November 2015 and Philando Castile was shot by a St. Anthony officer in Falcon Heights in July 2016.

In the wake of those and other high-profile killings of young black men by police, the state committee voted last October to put together a report about policing and civil rights in Minnesota.

The draft recommendations the committee included in their report cover everything from the role of law enforcement agencies in enforcing immigration policies to urging departments to bring in independent investigators when officers kill someone while on duty.

The draft report makes the following recommendations:

• State bodies that license and oversee policing policies should emphasize community policing.

• State authorities should improve access to officer training, including mental health, use of force and implicit bias training.

• The state should create better guidelines for how officers should use "tasers, chemical irritants, and other lethal and less-lethal weapons."

• The governor, Legislature and Minnesota League of Cities should urge Minnesota police departments to bring in experienced, independent investigators when officers use deadly force.

• Authorities should create "effective and legitimate" civilian oversight over police misconduct.

• State agencies should explore ways to promote more officers living in the communities where they work.

• State officials should "clearly and firmly delineate relationships between local police agencies and federal agencies" on issues of immigration enforcement.

The draft report also recommends that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights undertake a new national study of policing practices that's focused on use of force, body cameras and other technology, diversity and the impact that different policing practices might have on communities of color across the country.

The committee approved the draft report and recommendations on Friday. The report will be vetted by the commission and then published in its final form by early 2018. After that, the advisory recommendations will be made by the committee to each of the government bodies and police associations they identified.

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