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Sunday, January 25, 2015

MINNESOTA - Anti-profiling bill could stall in committee...


Minnesota - It looks as if a proposed bill before the Minnesota House that would create rules to reduce perceived profiling of motorcycle riders might have skidded to a halt. House File 59 would require several law enforcement groups to draft anti-profiling practices when dealing with the riders. It stemmed from claims that police have been pulling over motorcyclists without reasonable cause.
The bill was filed in the state House of Representatives last week and referred to the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee. It was co-sponsored by Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, whose district also includes Owatonna and townships in western Steele County.
The committee chair is Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, who is a former deputy sheriff and police chief. On Thursday, Cornish said that he would "rather not give it a hearing."
"I'm not saying profiles never occur," Cornish said. "I'm just saying that it hasn't occurred in the amount to warrant spending tens of thousands of dollars to model a policy."
He said that the process to create the rules would take a lot of time and money. If passed, the bill would require four law enforcement groups to draft the policies. That would include consulting with as many Minnesota State Patrol, sheriff and police departments as possible.
Once drafted, law enforcement agencies would then have to train every officer and verify that with the state, Cornish said.
One of the groups that would be involved in writing the policy would be the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, an advocacy organization that represents about 8,500 uniformed personnel.
Dennis Flaherty, the association's executive director, called the bill a "slap in the face" to police. He said that Minnesota law enforcement has some of the highest standards and the group's members take offense by the assertion of profiling.
"It's really unfortunate that legislators would think for one moment that decisions to stop vehicles are based on anything other than violations of law," Flaherty said. "And to make this assertion that officers are stopping people on motorcycles without reasonable cause to stop them is just - the whole idea is nonsensical."
Petersburg said that he signed on to the bill in part because he heard claims of profiling on the campaign trail. In October, he attended a forum hosted by American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education, or ABATE.
Earlier this week, Petersburg said that he believes motorcyclists are being profiled.
"Because they're riding motorcycles and wearing motorcycle gear, they're getting stopped," Petersburg said.
A representative for the local ABATE chapter said that an anti-profiling bill was among the group's top legislative priorities.
In Cornish's experience, it's not a widespread problem. He said that he hasn't been profiled while riding and conversations with other bikers didn't reveal an overwhelming problem.
"I found the bill, for what's going on, seems to be a local problem with a few departments that are operating a little bit outside of the norm," Cornish said. "But it doesn't warrant spending tens of thousands of dollars of training."