“At a time when our communities are calling for change, we have to respond.”

Stauber Leads Push to Pass Police Reform This Year

WASHINGTON, DC — With protests across the country helping to fuel a debate over ways in which America’s law enforcement system can be reformed, The Ripon Society hosted a virtual discussion this past Thursday with a Congressman and former police officer who is spearheading an effort on Capitol Hill to do just that.  

The Congressman is Pete Stauber (MN-8).  Serving his first term in the House of Representatives, Stauber spent two decades as a law enforcement officer in the Duluth Police Department before his election in 2018.  Because of this experience, he was tapped earlier this year by Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to lead the House GOP effort on police reform.  

Stauber — pictured above with former Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay at a White House event on police reform last month — opened his remarks on Thursday by talking about the importance of these efforts, and his work with South Carolina Senator Tim Scott to pass the JUSTICE Act, a plan the two have authored which is intended to help rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve by enacting reforms that create transparency and accountability within police departments nationwide.

“He comes at it as a black man growing up in the South,” Stauber said of his Senate colleague and fellow Republican.  “I come at it as a law enforcement officer of 23 years in the state of Minnesota.  I think it’s a really good piece of legislation that can actually get signed into law.  It is bipartisan.  In fact, about 85% of what’s in the JUSTICE Act are things on which my colleagues and I on the other side of the aisle agree.  The concern I have is that when Senator Scott brought the JUSTICE Act to the floor — just for a vote to get it up for discussion — it was voted down.  At a time when our communities are calling for change, we have to respond.”  

“I was really concerned that my two U.S. Senators, Klobuchar and Smith, voted against even bringing it to the floor for discussion. This reform is needed.  On the House side, they brought up a piece of legislation that was purely partisan.  I asked to be a part of the drafting of that legislation, because I think I can bring my experience and knowledge to some parts of that arena that some folks might not have.  Not that I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  But I think I have something to offer.” 

According to Stauber, this includes an understanding of what works — and what does not work — when it comes to America’s police departments and the communities that they have pledged to serve. 

“Twenty three years ago,” Stauber noted, “President Bill Clinton brought the COPS program to the nation.  And it was a very good program.  Community policing is a philosophy that you don’t police your community, you police withyour community. It builds trust and lasting relationships.  I cut my teeth in community policing as a young patrol officer. I spent eight years as a community officer in the city of Duluth — which has the third largest police department in the state of Minnesota — with much success. It was a lot of hard work.  But the trust that I built with the community that I served, those bonds are still strong today because of what we did together.

“The JUSTICE Act puts community policing front and center in many respects. The last time Congress appropriated money for community policing was in 2008. So under the Obama-Biden Administration and the first three and a half years of the Trump Administration, not one dime has been put forth towards community policing. The JUSTICE Act not only changes that, but it brings in the transparency, accountability, and performance measures that are so critical to serving our communities.  There are a couple of major differences between the JUSTICE Act and the piece of legislation that the Speaker brought to the House floor.  But I think we can get over those, because we agree on 85% of the issues.”

Stauber talked about one of the issues where there remained disagreement — no knock warrants — and how his experience as a police officer helped to shape his views on the subject today.

“If you look at the Breonna Taylor incident, it was a tragedy from start to finish,” he stated bluntly.  “There was a life lost.  I was a member of the Duluth Police Department’s tactical response team for eight years. I was an entry team member.  It’s not fun being on the tactical response team, because when you were called it meant there was a high probability that you were about to go into a situation where there were bad people who were probably going to shoot.”

“I’ve been in no knock search warrant situations. I have had instances where I got to the subject laying on the couch who was reaching for a handgun as I entered the room.  The handgun was laying on the floor, and I happened to step on his hand before he got to the weapon. That’s what a no knock will do. Keep in mind, these folks that you are about to enter and arrest for their crimes, they’re probably going to go to jail for a long time. If you give them the chance to go out with a bang, literally, they will try it.”

“In the JUSTICE Act, both Senator Scott and I agree, let’s review no knocks and see how we can make them better and safer. For instance, maybe having two judges sign off and having two police commanders sign off on those warrants.  And make sure the confidential, reliable informants that you spoke to about the particular residence are accurate and truthful to the best of your ability. Make sure that you use the technology that’s there so you don’t go to the wrong house. When you execute a no knock search warrant in the best professional manner, using best practices, you are using everything at your disposal. I knew on my search warrants that we went in as a team, I knew exactly where I needed to go. 

“Senator Scott and I talked about this. Let’s study it. Let’s look at every department that does no knocks. Enter that data. And I think in time, we’ll see that when you do them right, the outcome is good.”

Stauber concluded his remarks by returning to a point he made earlier — namely, that Republicans and Democrats agree on 85% of the issues involved, and the American people want to see Congress take action on the issue this year.

“If we have to put things into a commission to study, I’m all for that,” he said of the differences that remain.  “I think it can be a win-win. This country is demanding it.  Our communities are demanding it. And I will say this — nobody dislikes a bad officer more than a good officer.  In the profession of police work, a bad officer sticks out like a sore thumb. We can’t have that. 

“It is a profession that needs to be honored and supported throughout our communities, because there are some cases that officers go on that we never forget in our life.  It’s a noble profession.  The men and women in the brown and blue across this nation help keep us safe.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin.  One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success.  These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.