A coalition of Minnesota law enforcement groups sued Friday over a recently enacted law that changed the standard for justified use of deadly force by police.
Their lawsuit challenges a 2020 law on the grounds it would violate an officer’s constitutional right against self incrimination. The law went into effect this March.
Efforts to either redo the law again or pause it failed to advance in the now-concluded special session.
The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and Law Enforcement Labor Services filed the lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court. Gov. Tim Walz and the state are named as defendants.
The deadly force law underwent a major rewrite following George Floyd’s death in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers last May. Ex-officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck until his body went limp, was convicted of murder and was sentenced last week to 22.5 years in prison. The three others on scene that day await trials.
The new standard narrowed the conditions for when lethal force is deemed appropriate and depends on an officer articulating an imminent threat.
The police groups contend that officers weren’t given enough time to be trained on the new standards. And they point to decisions by departments in bordering states to stop assisting in critical incidents in Minnesota as a sign of concern.
Now, force is considered justified only when necessary to prevent great harm or death to an officer or bystander. It can’t be unreasonably delayed from the actual threat. And based on all of the circumstances known at the time, the action “can be articulated with specificity by the peace officer” that force was properly used.
The Legislature is expected to return to the debate in the 2022 session. The court case could take many months or longer to resolve.
House Public Safety Chair Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said the courts will have a difficult job.
“What is the right balance of personal discretion on the part of our licensed peace officers with the constitutional right for civil liberties and the human rights of individuals?” Mariani said. “We’re talking about the ultimate decision.”