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Minnesota calls in out-of-state police back-up ahead of decision in Chauvin case

The Senate advanced the $9 million plan to support state troopers and law enforcement groups from outside the state in responding to the Twin Cities.

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Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, spoke to reporters outside the Senate chamber on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Monday, April 19, declared a peacetime emergency for the seven-county metro area and announced that the state would tap police resources from other states ahead of a decision in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer.

Gov. Tim Walz said and State Patrol Colonel Matt Langer said the state was preparing to bring in roughly 120 law enforcement officers from Nebraska and Ohio in an effort to stave off civil unrest in the Twin Cities. The first-term governor said the move was aimed at preventing rioting and looting like that which followed the 2020 death of George Floyd.

"Local and state resources have been fully deployed, but they are inadequate to address the threat," Walz wrote in the executive order. "Recent events in Brooklyn Center have exhausted Minnesota’s local and state resources and are likely to hamper our ability to provide public safety and protect critical infrastructure and key resources in the seven-county metro area in the coming week."

Legislative leaders on Monday said they were in negotiations over a proposal to fund the law enforcement back-up. And a $9 million proposal to fund a police response in the state passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis. The bill's prospects in the Minnesota House of Representatives remained in question.

Walz on Friday, April 16, requested the extra funding during a call with legislative leaders. He said it was necessary as state and local law enforcement groups continue responding to protests in Brooklyn Center following the death of Daunte Wright and as attorneys deliver their closing arguments in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin faces manslaughter and murder charges in the death of George Floyd .

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Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, told reporters that all four legislative leaders voiced support for the plan during the Friday phone call. And he said it was critical that lawmakers approve the funding quickly in response to ongoing unrest.

“As we think about some of the events that have been happening, we have to come together," Gazelka said. "And part of that, frankly, is supporting the police and the National Guard and the work they’re doing to keep our streets safe."

Republicans in the chamber voiced support for the proposal, noting that protest demonstrations in Brooklyn Center had turned violent over the weekend.

"There are bricks and bottles and all forms of things that are being directed at the police," Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said. "And we must recognize the difference, that this is a public safety issue and the police have an obligation to protect the people of those communities from these criminal acts."

Protesters and journalists at the protests have also reported that law enforcement officers have used excessive force in efforts to vacate the area outside the Brooklyn Center police station.

Democrats on the Senate floor raised concerns about the state spending more money on law enforcement when the issues that spurred protest and unrest involved deaths at the hands of police. And they said bringing in additional law enforcement groups could further traumatize communities still processing the deaths of Wright, Floyd and others. They also renewed calls for the Senate to take up police accountability legislation.

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"We've had a year to plan and in that time we have done nothing in terms of passing meaningful reform," Sen. Omar Fateh, D-Minneapolis, said. "We could've invested in communities that were harmed by police brutality and damaged during civil unrest. We could've worked with community organizations to create a plan for keeping the peace and not squashing free speech."

MORE ON POLICE REFORM AT THE CAPITOL:

  • Minnesota police shooting rekindles police reform debate, puts budget talks in question The renewed calls for police accountability and transparency came as the Legislature entered its final month of session.
  • Daunte Wright's death prompts hearings, but no promises of reform at Minnesota Capitol A GOP leader on Tuesday said the Senate would hold "fact-finding" hearings but didn't commit to advancing police accountability measures backed by Democrats and legislators of color.
  • Minnesota Speaker says there's 'no realistic path forward' for trial security funding Republican legislative leaders, meanwhile, said they were still willing to negotiate a plan.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said legislative leaders and the governor had yet to reach a deal on the specifics of a funding plan. In a news release, Hortman said she would bring a funding plan up for a vote in the House once leaders could determine how much law enforcement agencies needed.
“We know that some individuals took advantage of the civil unrest last year to engage in criminal activities that destroyed livelihoods and neighborhood resources, and we need sufficient law enforcement personnel to respond if individuals again seek to take advantage of any civil unrest to commit criminal acts," Hortman said. “I will continue to work with the Governor and the Senate Majority Leader to provide emergency funding that is needed to ensure public safety.”

Hortman also said she would also continue pushing to ensure demonstrators are able to protest and journalists can work without interference from law enforcement.

The proposal could face a tough path forward in the DFL-led House of Representatives. Members of that chamber earlier this year voted down a $35 million plan to fund enhanced law enforcement presence in the Twin Cities during and after Chauvin's trial.

House Democrats from the metro area opposed the plan, saying additional police presence in Minneapolis and St. Paul could retraumatize communities grappling with Floyd's death and the deaths of other people of color at the hands of law enforcement officers. Republicans also opposed that measure out of concerns about amendments tying funding to accountability provisions.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email dferguson@forumcomm.com

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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