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Legislative News and Views - Rep. John Petersburg (R)

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Few of us understand the bravery shown every day by the men and women in law enforcement. These people put their lives on the line every day in order to protect their communities. Each incident they respond to could be their last.

Never was that more evidenced than last January, when Waseca police officer Arik Matson was shot in the head while responding to a call. By the grace of God he survived. After months of surgeries and therapy, Officer Matson is back home with his family again. Our community remains forever in his debt. The person who shot Officer Matson that day has been convicted of his crime.

The problem is many of us feel the sentence attached to that crime - 35 years in prison for two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer - wasn't nearly strong enough.

Under current law, a person found guilty of murder of a peace officer, prosecutor, judge or correctional officer is sentenced to life in prison without release.  The penalty for attempted murder of a peace officer is a maximum of 20 years with the offender becoming eligible for conditional release after serving 2/3 of the sentence - or just more than 13 years. 

Because of this, Senator Jasinski and I are sponsoring legislation in the Minnesota House and Senate that would strengthen this sentence.

Very simply, the bill would require an offender to be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of release after 30 years for the attempted murder of a peace officer, prosecutor, judge or correctional officer. There would be no early release, nor would the offender be automatically released after serving a sentence of 30 years. The Commissioner of Corrections could grant a release after a minimum of 30 years in prison after hearing from the victims and prosecutors.

This week, a press conference was held in St. Paul to unveil this legislation. We were joined by representation from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the Waseca County Attorney, and Arik and Megan Matson, all of whom strongly support the change.

Officer Matson is truly a hero. Without people like him who serve us in law enforcement, public safety cannot exist. At this time when Minneapolis politicians have brought up defunding the police, I believe the very least we can do is strengthen the penalties against those who attempt to kill law enforcement officers, and it's my hope this bill will be viewed as noncontroversial and will receive overwhelming bipartisan support.