Former state Rep. Erin Maye Quade: No deal on police reform 'really disheartening'

Signs for George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement at the Capitol
Signs calling for racial justice are seen in front of the State Capitol building on Juneteenth in St. Paul.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

The police killing of George Floyd opened a new chapter in the Black Lives Matter movement. It brought weeks of nationwide protest and introspection; statues toppled; buildings burned; and people came together to rebuild and reimagine.

But last week's special session of the state Legislature ended without a deal on police reform.

“[DFL lawmakers] just added too much at the end, and there was no way we were going to get done, even in weeks, with the things that they wanted to still do,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka told MPR News host Cathy Wurzer Tuesday.

He said his party agreed to ban chokeholds, require officers to step in if they saw a colleague harming a member of the public, add two citizen members to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, and allow arbitration cases to go to an administrative law judge. But the parties disagreed on replacing some police functions with alternatives.

Erin Maye Quade, DFL candidate in House District 57A
Erin Maye Quade in 2017.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News 2017

“To know that the deep seated racism and anti-Blackness, that veil has been lifted for Minnesotans and we are ready for action, and to see legislators and in the majority in the Senate take no action at all is just really disheartening,”said Erin Maye Quade, a former DFL state representative from Apple Valley.

She is currently working with other community advocates in Minnesota to push for reforms.

She spoke with MPR News host Tom Crann Tuesday. Hear their conversation using the audio player above, or read the transcript below. It has been edited for clarity and length.

Are the proposals Senate Republicans did agree to in theory a good faith effort to address community concerns?

The timeline for ending session on Friday was created. If it was going to “take weeks,” the Legislature absolutely could have stayed in session to work it out.

To know that the deep seated racism and anti-Blackness, that veil has been lifted for Minnesotans and we are ready for action, and to see legislators and in the majority in the Senate take no action at all is just really disheartening.

What was in the House bill and did it go far enough?

We had one ask as a group, and it was that they hold space for co-creation with community on safety and a path forward. And they certainly held that space.

Every community is different. I live in Apple Valley and the conversation that we are having here is different from the conversation that is happening in Minneapolis. That’s good and it’s something we should be encouraging. Lawmakers, their role is to really look at what can we do now, and then how do we stay in relationship with our communities to make sure that we're supporting efforts on the ground, whatever they may look like?

And I see the House package as really starting with immediate harm reduction and addressing some of the most urgent things, and also pulling from what do we already know that we've tried to do that we can bring again to pass and reduce harm in communities right now?

Did it feel different at all in terms of urgency, or did it just feel the same as when you were in the house not long ago?

I did watch, and it felt different. I think it's really important to lift up that racism and anti-Blackness as an emergency. It kills people. It is a public health crisis. And to see that level of seriousness carry onto the House floor was really heartening for me.

Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis president Bob Kroll told CBS This Morning on Tuesday that reform is needed and he wants to hear ideas from the community. He said, in his opinion, systemic racism isn't the problem. What would you tell him?

If Bob Kroll doesn't think systemic racism is a problem, I do not believe that there is a conversation to be had. I don't know how a community has a conversation with a person who cannot see what is in front of everybody else's eyes.

What's happened since the killing of George Floyd has felt different than past calls for reform, but that reform is still forthcoming. What are the next steps as you see it?

I think the next steps for folks in Minneapolis certainly is to continue to co-create with their city council and members of their communities and neighborhoods.

I think people in the state of Minnesota are doing the work to learn about systemic racism. I’ve been celebrating Juneteenth my whole life, and to see in my own city of Apply Valley a Juneteenth celebration like we had last Friday was beautiful.

So, the work continues. Folks should know that it's not something that we’ll solve in a summer, that it's going to be ongoing conversations and it's going to require all of us to think about what we want to build. Humans built the systems that we have, which means we are uniquely qualified to rebuild them in ways that do serve us.

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