House OKs bill to phase out part-time Minnesota peace officers

By Mike Cook, Session Daily

There are 175 licensed part-time peace officers in Minnesota and a bill awaiting Senate consideration would ensure that number never increases.

The House Monday passed 97-26 the bill that would prohibit law enforcement agencies from hiring new part-time peace officers, prohibit part-time peace officers from moving to new agencies and prohibit the Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training from licensing new part-time peace officers as of June 30, 2014. Current part-time officers would be grandfathered in until they retire.

“It’s a bill to professionalize peace officers in the state,” said Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, the bill’s sponsor and a former police chief. “A part-time licensed officer right now doesn’t have to have the college or the skills course that a full-time officer does.”

Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, is the Senate sponsor.

As of March 17, there were 10,279 full-time peace officers in Minnesota.

Neil Melton, executive director of the POST Board told the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee last month that 25 colleges and universities in the state provide a professional peace officer education program, and that part-time peace officers have been encouraged to get the necessary schooling to be eligible for full-time status.

“All (full-time) peace officers have a minimum two-year degree, about a third have a four-year degree,” he said, adding there are about 1,500 eligible candidates that have graduated from a college program and have passed the licensing exam. “Most of them would gladly take a part-time job in hopes of moving to a full-time position.”

Additionally, Cornish noted that a part-time peace officer can only work a certain amount of hours and cannot work independently without at least access to supervision.

Cook writes for the nonpartisan Session Daily (www.house.leg.state.mn.us/sessiondaily) in the Minnesota House Public Information Office.

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