Judge halts new MN police deadly force law, unknown if ND will unsuspend mutual aid

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 1:15 PM CDT
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A judge has suspended Minnesota’s new stricter standards on when police can use deadly force, halting a change in state law that followed the death of George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police.

The new standards, passed by the Legislature in 2020, raised the bar on officers to justify in specific terms how their actions involving lethal force were necessary.

The change put a pause on North Dakota law enforcement agencies helping agencies across the river which means for the time being if a critical incident happens on the Minnesota side, there will be 18 less members on the SWAT team, five less on the bomb squad and four fewer members on the Metro Street Crimes Unit.

Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead’s police chiefs, as well as both the Clay and Cass County Sheriffs are expected to meet Wednesday on how to move forward with the temporary law change and the possibility of bringing mutual aid back.

Several law enforcement lobbying groups filed a legal challenge to get the law tossed out or at least suspended until more officers could be trained on the new expectations.

Ramsey County Judge Leonardo Castro on Monday ruled that the changes to the law will be put on hold until the lawsuit is complete and that the use of force conditions will revert to those that were in place before the new law went into effect in March. Castro said oral arguments will take place within 60 days, the Star Tribune reported.

“The public policy implications are severe, and it is imperative that we get this right,” Castro wrote in his order.

The 2020 law change no longer allows officers to justify deadly force by claiming that they used such force to protect themselves or another person from “apparent” death or great bodily harm. The new law now reads, “to protect the peace officer or another from death or great bodily harm.”

Castro declined to grant Gov. Tim Walz’s motion to dismiss the case after the governor argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. The plaintiffs include the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc.

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