Late last month, the majority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives—and several legislative colleagues—announced a bill that would create an "expedited police training program" for people with "strong moral character and a proven commitment to community and public service " in an effort to address a shortage of police officers in the North Star State.
According to the Star-Tribune, Ryan Winkler—a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) who is presently running for Hennepin County Attorney—said the proposed legislation would provide free tuition, bonuses, and other incentives to attract high school and college graduates to the law enforcement profession.
The bill—HF 3581—would allocate $13 million in fiscal year 2023 "from the expedited peace officer education and training program account in the special revenue fund to the commissioner of public safety to establish and administer the expedited peace officer education and training program."
An additional $2.6 million would be set aside for a special college scholarship program, and another $800,000 given to the commissioner of public safety "to conduct outreach to qualified candidates for the expedited peace officer education and training program."
All this amid a rise in crime in some areas, while pressure persists among some anti-police "progressive" activists to further "defund" law enforcement that rose to prominence in the aftermath of the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Couple of Questions
Who defines 'strong moral character' and determines whether or not a cadet candidate meets the subjective criteria laid out in any such definition?
According to the draft legislation, there would be a "selection committee to review applications and make recommendations for participation in the program" consisting of:
- a peace officer employed by a state law enforcement agency
- the executive director of the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, or a designee
- two citizen members of the Ensuring Police Excellence and Improving Community Relations Advisory Council
- two representatives of the Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, including one sheriff of a county outside of the ten-county metropolitan area
- two representatives of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, including one chief of an agency located outside of the ten-county metropolitan area
- a representative of the Minnesota State Patrol Association
- a representative of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer Association
What new standards will a candidate meet in order to be the recipient of "expedited" training and matriculation into the ranks?
Currently, anyone wishing to begin the process of becoming a police officer in the state of Minnesota must meet a fairly rigorous set of criteria. They must pass a criminal background check and a drug test, appear for an in-person oral exam and interview, and pass pre-employment psychological screening and polygraph test. One might surmise that anyone deemed to have met these criteria would be—by all reasonable measure—of 'strong moral character.'
Variations on the word "require" appear 15 times in the proposed legislation—you can look it up—but nowhere is there clear indication as to what would necessitate an "expedited" career path based on some undefined 'moral character.'
The only clearly articulated requirement appears to be that "within six months of completion of the program, a participant must be employed full time in Minnesota as a peace officer."
The language of the legislation can be simply stated, "Minnesota really, really needs to train more cops."