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Minnesota Republicans push $65M police recruitment plan to address 'out of control' crime

GOP senators on Thursday presented a set of bills to offer sign-on bonuses and scholarships for Minnesotans who pursue careers in law enforcement.

Minnesota Republicans - police funding
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, speaks to Capitol reporters about a GOP proposal to spend $65 million to fund plans to boost law enforcement recruitment efforts.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Senate Republicans on Thursday, Feb. 3, presented a $65 million package aimed at recruiting more police officers around the state in an effort to address violent crime.

GOP lawmakers said their top priority this year was addressing an uptick in crime around the state. And they laid out plans to provide $10,000 bonuses for new officers, offer scholarships and financial aid to students studying to become law enforcement officers and fund a statewide marketing campaign to "elevate the law enforcement profession."

The efforts come as police departments around the state have reported difficulties in recruiting and retaining officers. At the Capitol, lawmakers of both political parties have said there needs to be an urgent effort to bring on additional officers and to keep in place those already serving.

"Bottom line is that violent crime is absolutely out of control and it's time to take it seriously and address it," Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said.

Miller said that he would aim to pass the proposals through the Senate quickly and hoped to find support in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-led House of Representatives for the plans. Measures addressing the retention of current officers and tougher penalties for certain crimes would also be forthcoming, he said. And he urged officials at all levels to show respect to law enforcement officers.

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During a live, virtual conversation hosted by Forum News Service Wednesday, Minnesota policymakers said they'd prioritize funding to recruit more police officers in an effort to prevent violent crime.

Republicans presenting the bills said law enforcement officers around the state experienced disrespect, and in some cases, abuse from Minnesotans. And Greater Minnesota residents told lawmakers that they didn't want to visit the Twin Cities metro area because of increased reports of violent crime there.

“I can tell you the people in my communities aren’t afraid to come to Minneapolis and St. Paul because of COVID, they’re afraid to come to Minneapolis and St. Paul because they’re afraid they’re going to get shot," Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, said. "They’re afraid of the violence, the carjackings, the robberies, and it needs to stop. And part of that is getting more law enforcement folks on the street and uplifting this profession again.”

Democrats at the Capitol have proposed a $100 million plan to fund grants that support nonprofits that work in violence prevention, community policing and crime investigation units among other things. They also said Thursday that they planned to bring forward additional measures to recruit and retain officers. And DFL leaders said they were open to negotiating a compromise.

“Democrats in the Minnesota House understand that police recruitment and retention is a challenge for many communities right now," House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said. "We have a proposal that we will announce in the days ahead, and we welcome collaboration with Senate Republicans to find areas of agreement."

At a virtual panel discussion hosted by Forum News Service on Wednesday, Miller, Winkler and Gov. Tim Walz agreed that the state should move quickly to address violent crime and boost funding to help police departments bring on more officers. They split on other policies aimed at reducing gun violence.

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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