Minnesota State Sen. Mee Moua (DFL-67)
St. Paul, Minn. (June 8, 2010) – State Senator Mee Moua (DFL-67) on Tuesday released outcomes of three legislative priorities: the restructuring of the Gang and Drug Oversight Council; and update to Gang Strike Force seizures and forfeitures; and an Interstate Compact for Juveniles.
Sen. Moua was the chief author of a bill to address problems that arose after the investigation of the Metro Gang Strike Force last summer, and it was recently signed into law. The new law restructures the statewide Gang and Drug Oversight Council and local multijurisdictional task forces and also address criminal data issues.
“After the strike force investigation last summer, it was clear that the gang and drug oversight council and multijurisdictional task forces needed to be restructured,” said Sen. Moua. “The new law clarifies the duties of the oversight council and updates their reporting requirements to provide for public accountability.”
The bill renames the Gang and Drug Oversight Council the Violent Crime Coordinating Council, modifies their duties, and addresses evidence handling policies, reporting and auditing requirements, and the county attorneys’ role in multijurisdictional task forces.
The new law expands the law enforcement use of the Comprehensive Incident-Based Reporting System through the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension – a system that brings law enforcement information from across the state together in one location and used as an investigative tool by law enforcement.
“Data on individuals is constantly being generated in Minnesota and collected by law enforcement to solve and possibly prevent crimes,” said Sen. Moua. “As technology advances, the question of what information should be collected and how long that information should be stored is a continuing debate.”
The new law also creates a new working group under the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension with balanced membership between law enforcement and non-law enforcement stakeholders to discuss issues and laws pertaining to criminal intelligence databases. The working group will make recommendations to the Legislature on the classification, storage, dissemination, and use of criminal investigative data and the guidelines for usage and collection of criminal investigative data held by law enforcement agencies.
A bill to clarify and update Minnesota’s forfeiture and seizure laws was also recently signed into law to address some of the issues raised by the Metro Gang Strike Force investigations last summer.
“The bill articulates the rights of people who have had property seized and outlines procedures to challenge the forfeiture proceedings,” said Sen. Moua, chief author. “The new law strikes a balance between protecting public safety and the rights of property owners. It also includes stricter reporting requirements to ensure public accountability of the forfeiture process.”
The Metro Gang Strike Force was shutdown in July 2009, after a legislative audit and a special review panel found serious misconduct regarding their seizure and forfeiture practices and a lack of financial oversight.
In most cases of property forfeiture and seizure, the law is strictly followed by our law enforcement officers and the only property taken can be proven to be directly tied to criminal activity. In the case of the gang strike force, a number of individuals were searched and their property was seized with no proof of gang connections or criminal activity, nor were arrests made or charges filed.
The updates to the seizure and forfeiture laws represent a balanced approach to the issues raised during the gang strike force investigations. To enable more public accountability and oversight, the new law includes more comprehensive seizure and forfeiture reporting requirements for state agencies and local law enforcement offices and prosecutors.
The new law also reduces judicial barriers by making it easier for property owners to get property back if it had no connection to a crime by allowing all forfeiture cases under $15,000 to be heard in conciliation court and allowing property owners to petition county attorneys for mitigation.
Moua authored a bill to adopt a new Interstate Compact for Juveniles that was also signed into law. The multi-state agreement is to provide procedural means to regulate the movement across state lines of juveniles who are under court supervision.
“This legislation assures that juvenile escapees and juveniles who have run away from home are returned home safely through a consistent legal process,” said Sen. Moua.
The previous compact was adopted by Minnesota in 1957. The updated compact provides a mechanism for tracking and supervising juveniles that move across state borders. Prior to the passage of this bill, Minnesota was one of nine states that had not yet adopted the new compact.
By passing this legislation, Minnesota will be included in the Interstate Commission for Juveniles that provides for the management, monitoring, supervision and return of juveniles, delinquents and status offenders who are on probation or parole and who have absconded, escaped or run away from supervision and control to states other than where they were sentenced.
Sen. Moua appreciates the input she receives from her constituents. She encourages anyone with questions or comments to contact her at 651-296-5285, [email protected] or 120 State Capitol, St. Paul, MN55155.