MOORHEAD — City Attorney John Shockley said it likely will take a "legislative fix" to solve the problem of law officers from North Dakota no longer crossing the river to help their Minnesota counterparts in criminal situations.

Even though a judge has suspended Minnesota’s stricter use of deadly force standards passed in the Legislature last year, law officers from North Dakota still aren't helping out across the border.

"Moorhead and Clay county remain vulnerable until and unless this issue is resolved and mutual aid is restored," Moorhead Governmental Affairs Director Lisa Bode said.

The City Council on Monday, Oct. 25, voted to make it one of their top legislative priorities now and for next year when the Legislature reconvenes.

Mayor Shelly Carlson said they held "multiple meetings" across state lines to try to find a solution to the situation but haven't made any concrete progress. Talks included Fargo and North Dakota law enforcement officials, too, who would like to be able to help their neighbors across the river, she said.

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Carlson said they considered having Moorhead and Clay County start their own SWAT team and other law enforcement specialty groups to help with more dangerous and severe criminal situations.

"But it would cost millions," Carlson said, "so we're open to ideas."

She said they pressured the Gov. Tim Walz, legislators and the Department of Public Safety on the interstate mutual aid issue to no immediate avail.

The new law was spurred by the death of George Floyd while he was in police custody. It took effect March 1 of this year.

The law no longer allows state law officers to justify deadly force by claiming they were protecting themselves or others from "apparent" death or great bodily harm by eliminating the word "apparent" from existing laws.

The new law states such deadly force can only be used "to protect the peace officer or another from death or great bodily harm."

Because it conflicts with laws in North Dakota and other states surrounding Minnesota, law officers won't cross state lines for mutual aid, Shockley said.

Minnesota's major law enforcement associations filed a lawsuit to stop the new law and determine whether it's constitutional.

The suit is currently being evaluated by the courts, and legal arguments must be made by Nov. 12. However, even if a decision quickly followed, the case could then be appealed, prolonging the issue.

Thus, Shockley told the City Council he thinks the legislature needs to change the law or make an exception for border cities.

Bode said the other top legislative priority for Moorhead should be seeking $17.5 million in the bonding bill to complete all flood structures in the city. She said the funds would be used for a north Moorhead project, lift stations, a First Avenue North levee/floodwall, Riverview Circle levies and a 40th Avenue South road raise.

The city was successful in the 2020 bonding bill with funding awarded to help with the 11th Street railroad underpass project, Clay County waste management campus project in Moorhead and other flood control projects, Bode said.

The other legislative priorities for Moorhead are to keep an eye on the Border City Enterprise zone programs that date back to the 1980s and address competitive disparities between Minnesota and North Dakota tax structures and worker's compensation costs, she said.

The program is now built into the state budget, she noted, but it still needs to be monitored. The program helps Moorhead, Dilworth, East Grand Forks, Breckenridge and Ortonville with aid.

About 125 businesses have applied for the worker's compensation program so far this year — only about half of those eligible. It could provide up to $30,000 to each business.