Minnesota Report

(Part Two)

C&B: Former Representative Charlie Weaver, head of the Business Partnership has expressed interest in trying to broker something. What do you anticipate there?

CM: Well, I think it will be a good faith effort on his part, my former colleague Charlie was a pretty conscientious legislator, a serious legislator who understood public policy. He works, representing some of the biggest corporations, you know, through business partnership in our state and corporate America actively have taken some pretty big strides in recent years to embrace racial equity racial justice to be better than they have in the past in terms of being inclusive in their practices with communities and your hiring practices etc I think there’s a real practical perspective, you know from that sector that racism is bad for the business it’s bad for our society. You know, it produces unrest that can get chaotic, which then means that places like Target have to board up their windows and close their shops that’s not what businesses want to do.

And so, I hope that Charlie’s, you know, desire to play go between can coax his former colleagues, Senate Republicans to match at the very least, match that level of commitment to combat racism and understand that we’re not just talking about a few bad apples. You know among police, we’re talking about an inadequate system that cannot combat racism and therefore allow for that dynamic, that dynamic of racism will play itself out the way, many people saw that played out with the killing of Philando with George, you know, so many black and brown people across the country.
So, I welcome his offer to help. Hopefully it’ll move things along.

C&B: Republican Senators have said it, even on the floor of the Senate, that they see this is a Minneapolis problem, is this a Minneapolis problem solely?

CM: It’s not solely a Minneapolis problem, but that’s symptomatic of a widespread issue, and that’s why you have all sorts of demonstrations, not only in Minneapolis but places as far away as the Bemidji, Duluth, St. Cloud, Rochester, because folks know that there are issues with policing generally. And of course, you know, good God, over 100 cities across the nation where they have also experienced these kinds of obscene tragedies. And so, you know, it’s a false narrative, it doesn’t, it doesn’t, honor, what Minnesotans know to be true.

We know that the majority of deadly force encounters in this state occur outside in the Twin Cities for instance. And people know that, and so I, you know, I think that kind of diversion, and lack of truth is not going to be well received the people of Minnesota. They want real solutions, they don’t want to just scapegoat, you know, one community.

C&B: You took a bold step, last year and directly reached out to the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to bring about systemic change on the issue of probation. Can you discuss that process, and then in turn the response of your counterpart Senator Limmer?

CM: Yeah, we know, in my committee, we heard a bill, that set probation terms no more than five years. All the social scientists including all their probation officers told us that there’s no reason to have a term longer than five years. If there are, they’re pretty rare and extreme. We have terms as much as 40 years.

There are tremendous collateral consequences that happen with that. 100,000 people on probation in the state of Minnesota. You know, so the collateral consequences could be everything from being able to vote, without being able to obtain credit, not being able to rent certain rental properties diminished opportunities, you know, get on with their lives even though their trying to do that.

And a pretty dispirit impact of low-income people out of poor whites and rural parts of Minnesota, as well as on people of color and Indian people in the state of Minnesota. And so, we had the bill, like I said Long carried it a Democrat in my committee. Senator Chamberlain the Republican Tax Chair, carried it in the Senate. Senator Limmer didn’t give it a hearing at all. It was never heard in that committee, we heard that we passed it. We pass it off the floor of the House and the Senate took no action on it. In the meantime, I was communicating directly publicly and transparently with, with the commission itself. We understood its charter and we knew that this charter gave it the authority to act without legislation.

Obviously, I prefer legislation but, in this case, we had long ago, empowered this commission with the ability to act on this issue.So, I coaxed them, I encouraged them to do it. You know, after new terms, or new people be appointed by Governor Tim Walz it was a critical mass of folks who heard that message, they waited to see if we would act legislatively but we didn’t they, they acted administratively and created the five year cap with exceptions but generally applied the five year cap going forward for all future convictions.The Senate, my counterpart was upset. He publicly testified and told them that they should not be taking these actions. only the legislature could do it, he is technically and legally incorrect on that. You know, he certainly had an opportunity, back legislatively, but simply did not act. You know, in the name of justice of getting things right for 100,000 people.

Well, it only applies prospectively so those 100,000 are stuck with their terms. My hope is, that at some point we’ll revisit their cases and get them capped at the five year, but the point is that the Sentencing Guidelines did the right thing to make Minnesota a better place for a whole lot of people to get on with their lives.

C&B: In 1999, when Jesse Ventura was governor and Rich Stanek a representative, the residency requirement for new officers in Minneapolis and St Paul was removed before it was fully implemented at the time Stanek was a Minneapolis cop and later became the Hennepin County Sheriff. Can you explain the impact of this legislative action and the vested interests that Stanek showed?

CM: Well, the impact is that well over 90% of the Minneapolis police have no connections with the communities that they police in Minneapolis. They don’t live there. They don’t interact in a regular way with people that they’re policing in Brooklyn Center it’s 100% of their police force that lives outside of the city. In Richfield, I forget the number but it’s a huge number. And so, Minneapolis and a number of other have asked us to overturn this in order to be able to establish a strong connection between the residents of their city and who gets to police and be a police officer in their cities.

And so, you know the impact I think has been, you know, greater distance being created between police officers and community members. You know that’s exacerbated by race, you know where you have huge percentages of white police officers, mostly good officers, you know, but who do not nevertheless reflect, you know the racial cultural communities that they are policing. And that’s a recipe for all sorts of, you know, misinterpretations, miscommunications, which sometimes you know, can lead to really bad outcomes so the cities really want this ability to do that. Our proposal doesn’t mandate it simply lifts the ban so that local control you can make these decisions on a city by city, township by township basis.

C&B: The name of the committee you chair has changed significantly over the course of time, especially when changing between DFL and Republicans control, is there a fundamental difference in philosophy between the two parties?

CM: Ya, there is, by the way I’m going to need to go. I’m supposed to call the Governor in two minutes. Ya, the philosophy is that everyone is at the table in this committee. It isn’t just white guys, it isn’t just law enforcement, there certainly are white guys and there certainly are law enforcement at the table, at the witness table, in helping write legislation, absolutely. And now there are way more people of color, indigenous people, people from different gender identities, lots of survivors of crime including the survivors of sexual assaults in our state. They’re all at our table. We have immigrants we have Muslims, we have blacks, so you come to a committee hearing now days and you’re going to see an incredibly powerful rich display of the fullness of Minnesota engaged in shaping laws. Where as in the past it was not the case. I’m really proud of that, that’s you know, us being the best legislature that the state of Minnesota deserves.