Minnesota State Leading the Way to Law Enforcement Education Reform
By Satasha Green-Stephen, Associate Vice Chancellor, Minnesota State
Dennis Olson, Commissioner, Minnesota Office of Higher Education
George Soule, Member, Board of Trustees, Minnesota State
May 25, 2021
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, Chancellor Malhotra convened the Minnesota State Taskforce on Law Enforcement Education Reform to provide recommendations on issues, initiatives, programming, and priorities relative to an anti-racist law enforcement education and diversity, equity, and inclusive practices across Minnesota State and the State of Minnesota. This post, authored by the co-conveners of this taskforce, describes its work and its alignment with Equity 2030.
The trial of ex-officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted in the murder of George Floyd, is a powerful expression of our collective demand for racial justice. Institutions of higher education are positioned to lead the path forward, addressing systemic racism that permeates society. The Minnesota State Taskforce on Law Enforcement Education Reform has begun to lay the critical groundwork in addressing issues of racism and social justice to advance meaningful reforms in law enforcement education and training.
With approximately 86 percent of Minnesota’s graduates in law enforcement graduating from one of 37 Minnesota State colleges or universities, Minnesota State, in partnership with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, has been leading an effort to make the needed changes in its law enforcement and criminal justice programming to develop and prepare graduates who are ready to anchor transformative policing.
Phase I: Taskforce Advisory and Recommendations
The Minnesota State Taskforce on Law Enforcement Education Reform first convened in August of 2020. Comprised of approximately 30 members representing a wide, diverse, and inclusive cross section of external and internal key stakeholders, the taskforce met regularly over the course of six months to critically examine, develop, and make recommendations pertaining to an anti-racist law enforcement education for Minnesota State.
Leveraging the partnerships and expertise of taskforce members including the University of Minnesota, K-12 partners, community organizations, citizen and student groups, police departments and precincts, political leaders, the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board and other state agencies, as well as others engaged in law enforcement education and reform, the taskforce wrestled with complex issues, listening to and collaborating with each other to put forward a set of action-oriented recommendations that are responsive to community needs and align with broader police reform efforts. The recommendations were presented at the March 2021 Minnesota State Board of Trustees meeting and were unanimously approved. The full report is available on the Minnesota State Taskforce website.
This taskforce is part of an overall review of academic programming that ties into Equity 2030 and its comprehensive approach to directly address injustice and systemic racism within Minnesota State workplace, campus communities, and curricula. In order to reach the Equity 2030 goal in closing the educational equity gaps across its 54 campuses by 2030, a strategic component of a multi-faceted approach includes the ongoing focus and review of all academic programs through an equity-focused and anti-racist lens. The review is particularly critical at this time for law enforcement, criminal justice, and related academic programs.
As co-conveners, we deeply appreciate the hard work of the taskforce members, as well as their sense of urgency, in providing a robust framework, which not only focuses on the needed educational reforms for new students, but also provides current peace officers opportunities for lifelong learning. The recommendations are categorized in three areas: 1) education of new officers, 2) recruitment and retention of Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) law enforcement officers, and 3) education and training of current officers. A brief summary of the recommendations are as follows:
Education of New Officers:
- Incorporate cultural competency and leadership training and development into the curriculum and infuse programming with anti-racist education.
- Develop transformative policing practices with an emphasis of the role of law enforcement as public servants within communities.
- Ensure that all colleges and universities have a Program Advisory Committee and complete an assessment of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Programs.
Recruitment and Retention of BIPOC Law Enforcement Officers:
- Require professional development for all Minnesota State faculty and staff in cultural competency and anti-racist education.
- Diversify, attract, and retain BIPOC faculty, staff, and students in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice programs.
Education and Training of Current Officers:
- Redesign and increase anti-racist and cultural competency continuing education opportunities for law enforcement officers.
- Build greater and more influential partnerships with departments.
Phase II: Implementation and Next Steps
As the taskforce has completed its charge, now the work of implementing the recommendations begins. The next phase will include evaluating, assessing, and prioritizing the recommendations to create a shared vision across our colleges and universities on the taskforce’s recommendations. It will also require the newly created Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Faculty Community of Practice made up of Minnesota State faculty in law enforcement and criminal justice to create an implementation process that aligns with program review, revision of the Minnesota POST Board standards, and faculty professional development.
Many of Minnesota State campus faculty have started to review and re-envision its law enforcement and criminal justice programs. While this curricular work is campus-based, the system office has a role in supporting, expanding, and accelerating this work. To that end, Minnesota State has been formulating an approach to build upon existing practices and identifying additional steps needed to help align ongoing programmatic review and reform.
The community of practice is led by four faculty leads who support faculty in collaboration across 90 academic programs (22 Minnesota POST Board certified professional peace officer education c programs) in law enforcement, criminal justice, and corrections programs to critically examine current law enforcement and criminal justice curricula and pedagogy using an anti-racist and equity-focused lens. This community of practice is not meant to supplant campus-based discussions and curricular review, but rather to augment it and provide an environment for the sharing of thoughts and exploration of common solutions across colleges and universities. Additionally, this community of practice will be instrumental in the program review and quality assurance process and implementation of the taskforce’s recommendations.
This is a seminal moment for Minnesota and our country. While the challenges we face are deep and substantial, we share a great capacity for empathy, collaboration, healing, and transformation. The work of the Minnesota State Taskforce on Law Enforcement Education Reform is a significant step in advancing transformative changes in our policing, law enforcement, and criminal justice systems.
The taskforce can serve as a model of how cross-sector collaboration can work together to initiate needed change and drive social progress. Complex societal issues like police reform and closing the educational equity gaps cannot be solved by one sector alone. Our success – our vibrancy as a state – is inextricably intertwined.