MN Newspapers Publish LMC Letter Supporting More Arbitration Reform

August 17, 2020

LMC executive director’s letter to the editor discusses the need for legislators to continue working on law enforcement arbitration reform.

Several days following a letter the League sent to Minnesota legislators expressing frustration with the outcome of recent law enforcement arbitration reform and requesting that legislative leaders continue to work on reform measures, the League also sent a letter to the editor to several newspapers in the state with a similar request.

The letter, which appears below, has been published by several local and regional papers including the Austin Daily Herald, Brainerd Dispatch, Grand Rapids Herald-Review, and the Rochester Post-Bulletin, among others.

To the editor:

The League of Minnesota Cities thanks the state Legislature and the governor for their work to pass the Police Accountability Act. This legislation is a good beginning and goes a long way toward addressing law enforcement systemic reform. There is, however, more work to do, and we stand ready to provide additional support and assistance.

As it currently stands, the Minnesota Public Employment Labor Relations Act arbitration system undermines the ability of elected officials and police chiefs to make lasting departmental disciplinary and termination decisions to protect residents and ensure a responsible public safety environment. As a result, police officers who are removed from duty for misconduct are often returned to their department and assignments based solely on the opinion of an independent arbitrator.

The League believes that the legislation that was passed did not go far enough because it does not include a new, reduced standard of review in police discipline matters. A standard of reasonableness would focus the arbitrator’s role on simply determining whether the facts presented show that the employer’s actions were reasonable and consistent with city and departmental policies. This reasonable standard is necessary in order to truly increase accountability and foster cultural change in our police departments.

The League also supports the use of administrative law judges (ALJs) for grievances involving terminations and discipline for severe instances of police misconduct, including excessive use of force. This ALJ model provides an appeals process when terminations or disciplinary actions are overturned, which the current arbitration process does not.

As state lawmakers continue the important work of pursuing law enforcement reform in the coming weeks and months, the League urges all legislators and the governor to ensure these additional police accountability measures become law.

David Unmacht
Executive Director, League of Minnesota Cities

City action needed

The League is encouraging member cities to reach out to their local legislators to advocate for the additional provisions described in the letter. There is the potential for the Legislature to reopen the Police Accountability Act in a future special session or in the 2021 regular session to make clarifying changes and technical corrections.

If the Police Accountability Act is reopened, the League will continue to advocate for additional language around arbitration reform.

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