Ask the cops

Members of law enforcement are routinely excluded from ‘reforms’ that make our communities less safe.

Calls to ban no-knock search warrants following Amir Locke’s shooting death in downtown Minneapolis highlight a disturbing and growing trend in which law enforcement professionals are routinely excluded from important conversations about public safety reform in Minnesota.

Minnesota peace officers are correctly held to very high standards. To enter the profession, aspiring officers must first satisfy stringent requirements established by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board. Unlike other states, candidates in Minnesota must have at least an associate degree or acceptable military experience in lieu of college. Candidates are also required to successfully complete a rigorous specialized professional education program at one of 30 certified institutions across the state. Once on the job, peace officers are required to complete 40 hours of continuing education over three years to maintain a state license. As with any noble profession, the public expects continuous improvement for the benefit of society. Could you imagine changes in the practice of medicine without inviting opinions from qualified doctors?

Unfortunately, some political leaders seldom invite the views of Minnesota’s law enforcement professionals. When Mayor Jacob Frey banned no-knock warrants while the city considered revisions to the Minneapolis Police Department policy, he appointed DeRay Mckesson, an anti-police activist, and Dr. Pete Kraska, an academic from Eastern Kentucky University to suggest policy changes. Mckesson seems like a particularly odd choice because he was sued for his role during a protest-turned-riot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a police officer was seriously injured. Law enforcement was excluded from this important discussion.

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This is reminiscent of revisions to the Minnesota deadly force statute in 2020 without police input, which further limited police officers’ discretion to protect themselves or others. One of the many problems with the statute required police officers to justify why they used deadly force. A Ramsey County court granted an injunction to stop the law from taking effect because it infringed on a police officer’s constitutional rights. Portions of the law were later stricken altogether. Similarly, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi overlooked objections from some law enforcement organizations when he unilaterally announced that he would no longer prosecute felonies arising from low level traffic stops, even as serious gun crimes in the Twin Cities continue to skyrocket. More recently, a Richfield special education high school removed magnetometers from its school’s entrance without first talking to the police. Months later a student was shot to death by a fellow student in that school.

Some will argue that police input is irrelevant because no-knock warrants or other police tactics are too dangerous for everyone involved. This critique misses the point. Law enforcement professionals can use their real-world experience to show where tactics saved lives, including those of officers, victims, and perpetrators. Policymakers need this perspective to properly assess the trade-offs posed by using or not using no-knock warrants.

Law enforcement leaders might show how no-knock warrants help locate and arrest an armed criminal, rescue hostages held at gunpoint, or remove a drug cartel’s stash house from a residential neighborhood. It is even more important following police shootings to invite professional law enforcement views on any proposed reform. Giving police representatives a seat at the table underscores that they are full partners in the community, are responsible for public safety, and will ensure that proposed policy changes will not create unintended consequences that put police officers or the community at greater risk.