It’s been nearly a year since Denise and John Klaus shared their son Matthew’s story with Minnesota legislators in an effort to have a bill passed in his honor.
Named after their 32-year-old son who died of a drug overdose while working as a confidential informant for the Rochester Police Department in 2019, Matthew’s Law seeks the creation of a model confidential informant policy that would provide better protections for informants, as well as require training for the law enforcement agencies that use them.
The bill was reintroduced by Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, and Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester.
- Confidential informant use policy referred to Ways and Means following brief presentation
“We’re both very optimistic, very hopeful,” John Klaus said. “It’s been so long since we were in the middle of this and getting right back into it brought up a lot of difficult emotions again. I think I just need to do this to honor Matt’s memory.”
The bill was first introduced in March 2020 and John and Denise spoke to lawmakers about it. A few weeks later, COVID-19 arrived in Minnesota. Two months later, George Floyd died under the knee of a now-former Minneapolis police officer. The Klaus’ intentionally paused their efforts to allow legislators to focus on more pressing matters, but they never gave up.
They kept in touch and kept Matthew’s Law on legislators' minds with emails and calls. Densie said they didn’t want lawmakers to forget about them and the importance of the bill.
"We were trying to be considerate of the other issues that were very important, but we didn’t want them to forget about us," John said.
On Jan. 21, Quam introduced HF 237, also known as Matthew's Law. Like its previous version, the bill was referred to the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy committee.
Quam said when the bill was introduced last year, there was good bipartisan interest in it.
The Senate companion bill, SF 304, was introduced on Jan. 25 by Senjem and referred to the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy committee
"I feel like it is something we could do for other people what wasn’t done for Matthew. If there’d been some of these protections in place when Matthew was acting as an informant, maybe the ways things ended wouldn’t have happened," Denise said.
"He might still be here," John added.
"I wouldn't want another family to have to go through what we went through if it could be prevented at all," Denise said.
Since its initial introduction in 2020, a few changes have been made to the bill. Most notably, members of law enforcement participated in crafting the bill. Brian P. Peters, Executive Director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, and a member of the Minnesota Sheriff's Association worked with the Klaus family to make a bill "that everyone was satisfied with," Peters said.
"The majority of law enforcement around the state were already following a lot of what was in the bill," Peters said. "I’m confident that we have the support. The legislators know that the MPPOA, the largest organization representing police across the state, they completely support this."
The bill would require the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to create a model policy that departments who use confidential informants would have to adopt. There are currently 17 mandated model policies from the POST Board.
John said he tries not to dwell on what could have been for his son if policies were followed when Matthew was an informant.
“If we can fix some of the problems that exist maybe we’ll be helping someone else," he said, "and that would be a wonderful way to honor his memory.”