The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training is looking to prevent those with racist ideologies or ties to extremist groups from joining the ranks of law enforcement with a set of new rules.
The board, which licenses officers in the state, will soon vote on recommendations from two administrative law judges that found that the POST’s language in their new rules defining extremist groups needed to be made more precise.
Once the rules are voted on and approved by the board, they must then be approved by Chief Administrative Law Judge Jenny Starr and by the governor’s office. The rule change is expected to go into effect anywhere from April to late June.
The judges who approved the rulings were Eric Lipman and Suzanne Todnem.
In a 37-page report, the judges approved rules covering prohibitions against officers who use excessive force, but classified rules barring officers from membership or association with an “extremist hate” or “white supremacist” group to be too vague.
The judges recommended defining a hate or extremist group by a set of principles or statements from a group’s leaders or members that demonstrates it supports activities promoting “the use of threats, force, violence or criminal activity … against a local, state or federal entity or the officials of such an entity,” as well as “depriving or attempting to deprive individuals of their civil rights” under the Minnesota or U.S. constitutions.
Groups that advocate “for differences in the right to vote, speak, assemble, travel or maintain citizenship based on a person’s perceived race, color, creed, religion, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, public assistance status or any protected class as defined in Minnesota statutes or federal law” will also be included under the barred groups.
In addition, the rules ban the dissemination of materials promoting the use of threats, force, violence or criminal and seditious activity.
Furthermore, those who engage in cyber or social media posts, chats and forums or display insignia, colors, tattoos, hand signs, slogans or codes that may be associated with a group would also be barred from law enforcement work.
POST Board chair Kelly McCarthy said she agreed with the judges’ recommendations.
“Our rules should mirror our policies, and so when you look at the threats we face as a country and as a profession, extremism is at the top of the list,” she said.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said the POST’s rules are becoming prevalent among departments across the country.
“Departments are very concerned about hiring anyone who has any ties to extremist groups,” he said.
McCarthy also said that under the new rules, the POST board would launch investigations if officers are alleged to belong to an extremist group that could jeopardize their peace officer license.