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Minnesota Attorney General’s task force sends recommendations on rape investigations to state lawmakers ahead of session

December 18, 2018

A state Attorney Generals task force assembled to take up Minnesota law enforcements systemic failures responding to sex assault cases on Tuesday issued its final series of recommendations before next months legislative session begins.

The state task force called for legislation aimed at requiring agencies to adopt sexual assault policies, improve officer training and collect more thorough data on sexual assault cases. The Legislature should also consider creating a statewide council to analyze responses to sex crimes and set aside money for innovation grants for agencies, the report added.

State Attorney General Lori Swansons task force, created in September following a Star Tribune investigation into Minnesota law enforcements uneven response to reports of rape and sexual assault, also issued numerous recommendations for law enforcement agencies, county attorneys offices and for the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which licenses and oversees more than 12,000 sworn officers in the state. On Monday, a subcommittee of the POST board presented a draft policy of strict new protocols to improve sexual assault response, ranging from how to gather evidence to interviewing victims.

The first responsibility of government is to keep the public safe and there have been gaps and failures when it comes to keeping the public safe from sex assaults, Swanson said at the task forces final meeting Tuesday at the State Capitol.

The task force met six times before issuing its final 47-page report with recommendations for the 2019 Legislature. Former Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson served as chair for the nine-person group, whose members included representatives from law enforcement, county attorneys offices, victim advocacy groups and the medical field.

During Tuesdays meeting, task force members each agreed that despite pulling together a series of recommendations before the Legislature begins its 2019 session on Jan. 7, much more is needed to reform law enforcements approach to sex assault cases.

Inver Grove Heights Police Chief Paul Schnell said the Star Tribunes findings should be a concern for all of us. While Tuesdays report is a start toward addressing a broad range of issues, Schnell said, rebuilding trust among sexual assault survivors is still a work in progress.

I think its important that they understand that there is a system and network in our state that is here to address these issues to investigate them thoroughly and hopefully to find some sense justice whatever that ultimately looks like, Schnell said.

Nicole Matthews, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Womens Sexual Assault Coalition, criticized the report for not including language addressing victimization among Native American women but added that she still hoped to see that addressed through the recommendations. She called for agencies to collect better data specific to the race of victims and perpetrators so that we can have a full understanding of who is getting a response and who is not getting a response from the system.

Teri McLaughlin, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, called the report a great start and sounded an optimistic note about its prospects for encouraging reform across multiple disciplines.

We need to really start by agreeing that we believe a crime has been committed, McLaughlin said. In the same manner that we believe that of other crimes when theyre reported. And from that and from that we have a basis to move forward.

Stephen Montemayor 612-673-1755

Twitter: @smontemayor

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