Last week, Minnesota lawmakers proposed the creation of a special prosecution board to investigate cases in which police officers use deadly force.
Chiefly authored by Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, the bill would eschew grand juries. Instead, a five-member office would indict officers whom they believe used unjustified deadly force.
This special judicial body would consist of a law-enforcement officer, a city or county attorney and three members of the public — one of whom must be a person of color.
The proposal follows a spate of demonstrations over Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman’s decision not to charge the Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark. Last Monday, Nekima Levy-Pounds, the president of Minneapolis’ NAACP chapter, called to reopen Clark’s case.
In recent months, criticisms of inept judicial systems that rarely punish officers have roiled city governments nationwide. In Chicago, the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald spurred Mayor Rahm Immanuel’s decision to create a task force to address the department’s history of racial discrimination.
The role law enforcement plays in the mass incarceration of people of color — augmented by the perception that police departments are strongholds of militarization, hostility and prejudice — has produced a climate of distrust among the general public.
A special prosecution board would ensure the transparency of judicial processes and would increase the accountability of public officials.
We urge Minnesota lawmakers to reach across the aisle and support Sen. Dibble’s proposal — one that could begin to rectify the public’s perception of the justice system.