MCPA Legislator Recognition Program

REp Mike HowardThe MCPA's Legislator Recognition Program recognizes members of the Minnesota House or Senate or the state’s Congressional delegation for their leadership and support on important legislation impacting law enforcement and public safety.  The 202p award recipient is Representative Mike Howard (DFL, District 50A).

In the 2020 Minnesota Legislative Session, Rep. Howard was a strong advocate for reforming the arbitration process, a top priority of the MCPA for the past several years. Prior to being presented his award virtually due to pandemic restrictions, he was gracious enough to take part in a Q & A with MCPA staff. 

Q:You have worked particularly hard the past couple legislative sessions on finding a better solution to the law enforcement arbitration system. Why is this issue important to you? 

The vast majority of peace officers serve our community valiantly every day, but in the rare instances when that trust is broken, it is vital we have a fair system of accountability in place. Unfortunately, the previous arbitration system has not been that kind of a system. As a city councilmember in Richfield, I experienced this broken system when our city fired an officer for a serious use-of-force violation. An arbitrator reversed this decision and returned the officer to our force. I learned this was not a unique situation for Richfield. Fifty percent of police officers who are fired win their jobs back in arbitration. For use-of-force violations, they fare even better.

With the spotlight and importance of trust between the community and law enforcement so vital, it was important to work toward consensus on reform to increase transparency, accountability and effectiveness of our arbitration system for peace officers.

Q: As you know, the MCPA has advocated for Administrative Law Judges to hear the most egregious law enforcement termination cases. Are you open to further discussions on this issue?  Please explain why. 

The Law Enforcement Accountability Act reforms the current arbitration process by creating a new roster of arbitrators appointed by the Bureau of Mediation Services who will exclusively serve as peace officer arbitrators. We believe this takes away the conflict-of-interest for arbitrators who have a financial incentive to “split the baby” with their decisions. In addition, a new appointment process allows for a more diverse skill set of these new arbitrators, which I believe will improve the professionalism and quality of the outcomes. 

Utilizing Administrative Law Judges for these cases would accomplish a similar set of goals. We need to evaluate if the reform passed this year is creating the outcomes we seek. If they are not, we should explore the use of Administrative Law Judges or other reforms.

Q: The Law Enforcement Accountability Act, passed by the legislature in 2020, contains several police "reform" measures. What kind of impact do you hope this bill will have on policing?

I believe the reforms passed in 2020 are a positive step to increase accountability and trust between law enforcement and our communities. The arbitration reform we worked on together is a key element of these reforms. That said, we need to evaluate the impact of these reforms and acknowledge we have more work to address our shared goals of public safety and community trust. 

Q: On behalf of all the police chiefs in Minnesota, thank you for your support on some key issues during some very challenging times for the profession.  What does receiving this award mean to you? 

REp Mike Howard

As a first-term legislator, this award means a great deal for several reasons. First, achieving reform in our arbitration reform has been a priority for me since the minute I was sworn-into office. Second, I have greatly appreciated the partnership with the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association as we worked to craft a solution. I look forward to continuing this partnership and working together in the future. 

Rep. Howard has served as the Vice Chair of the Housing Finance and Policy Division Committee, and is also a member of the Commerce, Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division, and Rules and Legislative Administration committees.

For these reasons and others, the MCPA Board of Directors is honored to present Rep. Howard with the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association's Legislator Recognition Award for 2020.
MCPA Legislator Recognition Awardees
2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Sen. Ron Latz
St. Louis Park
Rep. Tony Cornish
Lake Crystal
Rep. Nick Zerwas
Elk River
Rep. Debra Hilstrom
Brooklyn Center
Rep. Dave Pinto
St. Paul
Rep. Mike Howard