Law enforcement organizations in Minnesota are filing a lawsuit against Gov. Tim Walz over changes made to the justified use of deadly force standard during the 2020 legislative session.
The groups argue that the new law violates officers’ Fifth Amendment constitutional rights.
The group, comprised of organizations such as the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, and Law Enforcement Labor Services, were referring to the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020.
According to CBS 4 Minnesota, the law changed the standard for the justified use of deadly force to include that an officer “must be able to specifically articulate the threat of death or great bodily harm. The threat must also be likely to occur unless an officer takes action.” As a result, the law greatly narrowed the circumstances for when deadly force is appropriate or justified.
The lawsuit, which names Gov. Tim Walz as defendants, argues that such a statute would essentially force an officer to testify against himself in a criminal proceeding, thus violating their Fifth Amendment right, which protects individuals from self-incrimination.
The police groups say that officers weren’t given enough time to be trained according to the new standards, and are worried about the effect the law is having to alienate bordering states from assisting in incidents.
“The use of deadly force is one of the most critical aspects of a police officer’s duties. Minnesota’s police chiefs are committed to training officers to the highest standards possible. The law must be constitutional in order to ensure a transparent process and a just outcome for everyone involved in these types of cases,” said Minnesota Chiefs Of Police Association Executive Director Jeff Potts.
A spokesperson for Walz said in a statement, “Our office is reviewing the lawsuit and will work with the Legislature to determine whether clarifying language is necessary.”
The law enforcement groups also criticized the Police Accountability Act as “rushed,” “under unprecedented circumstances,” and lacking in clarity. The law also issued bans on chokeholds, arbitration reform, required a duty to intervene, and autism and mental health training.
Backers of the law praised it as an important step towards police accountability. They believe that officers resort to deadly force too quickly in high-stress encounters and that prosecutors had trouble charging officers due to the way the old law was codified.
“The right to self-defense is embodied in centuries of Anglo-American law and non-police officers presenting an affirmative defense of self-defense to a charge of the unauthorized use of deadly force maintain their constitutional rights not to testify. Therefore, a police officer faced with the same circumstances as a non-police officer is afforded fewer rights than a similarly situated civilian,” the lawsuit reads.