Crime debate begins in advance of legislative session

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

By Tim Pugmire

Democrats in the Minnesota House on Monday announced a $100 million proposal to improve public safety throughout the state.

The plan includes $40 million in grant money for community policing, $22 million for law enforcement crime investigations and another $22 million for nonprofit organizations that work on violence prevention.

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, chair of the House public safety committee, said the proposal would be a strong investment in addressing rising crime rates.

“We take seriously the need to equip communities to use data and innovate for new solutions, not old ones, for new problems,” Mariani said.

Mariani and other DFL lawmakers stressed that the recent rise in crime is hitting many states, not just Minnesota. He called for a bipartisan effort to address the problem.

“This legislation is focused on fighting crime, not on fighting one another politically,” he said.

The plan also includes $450,000 to increase Minnesota Board of Peace Officers Standards and Training investigations of alleged wrongdoing by police.

Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, said such investigations help restore public confidence in law enforcement.

“We need to start treating community confidence as the law enforcement intelligence resource that it is,” Frazier said.

The House public safety committee is planning to hold hearings on the proposal early in the 2022 session, which begins next week.

Rep. Brian Johnson, R-Cambridge, the lead Republican on that committee, said the DFL proposal falls short.

“Their package does nothing to hold criminals accountable and nothing to address the revolving door of repeat criminals responsible for a substantial number of carjackings, shootings and other violent crime,” Johnson said.

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate also favor a tough-on-crime approach. They plan to highlight their session priorities later in the week.

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said it will differ from the House DFL plan.

“Senate Republicans will make communities safer by funding more police officers, holding violent criminals accountable for their actions and ensuring victims receive the justice they deserve,” Miller said.