Bill to phase out part-time officer licenses
They sport the same uniforms, badges and police cars and can make arrests and carry guns. They may look like a typical police officer, but on paper they aren’t your average cop.
With no two-year degree required, 175 part-time peace officers are scattered in departments across the state. Minnesota lawmakers are looking to change that.
On May 7, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill that would stop the state from issuing part-time peace officer licenses this summer. They argue that putting officers on the streets with just 80 hours of training and a test is too risky.
According to Minnesota.gov, in order to be licensed as a part-time peace officer, a candidate must be sponsored by a law enforcement agency, have 80 hours of pre-service training or equivalent, meet selection standards as outlined in the Minnesota Administrative Rules 6700.0100, and pass a licensing test.
At that point they may be employed as a part-time officer with restricted hours and supervision by a licensed peace officer.
“You’ve got a person on the street that is authorized to take a life,” said Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, a former police chief and author of the bill. “With that great responsibility, you should have the two years of college and training.”
Law enforcement is split on the bill. The Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association supports it, as well as the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. But police chiefs are divided, according to the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, which has remained neutral.
The League of Minnesota Cities opposes the proposal, warning lawmakers that ending part-time licensure could have a drastic effect on departments that have trouble recruiting. Some departments also depend on part-time officers to staff events and fill in for officers on vacation or leave.
This move is the next stop in Minnesota’s effort to professionalize peace as said by Neil Melton, director of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.
Minnesota was the first state to require officers to have a two-year degree. In the late 1990s, the Legislature capped the number of part-time officers an agency could employ. The state’s count of part-time officers fell from 1,400 to an about 200 in recent years.
“I understand what their concerns are,” said Douglas County Sheriff Troy Wolbersen regarding motivation for the legislation. “From our experience, though, our part-time officers have always been very professional and capable of their jobs.”
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has three part-time officers. If the governor signs off on the bill, part-time officers will be grandfathered in, as long as they stay at their current place of employment.