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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL)

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Column: GOP approach will bring neither safety nor justice

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

First published in the StarTribune on 4/28.

GOP approach will bring neither safety nor justice

By Cedrick Frazier


All Minnesotans deserve to be safe, no matter where they live or what they look like.

Minnesotans also deserve to know the Senate Republican public safety proposal is an assortment of the same old, ineffective, poll-tested policies dressed up for a new election ("Tough on crime proposal advances," April 26). I fear, if enacted, this bill will put Minnesota on the road to becoming more like Mississippi: a state with high crime rates and more punitive, more racially inequitable, yet less effective public safety and criminal justice outcomes.

As someone who has been personally impacted by gun violence, I see addressing crime as too important and too personal to play politics and not speak out against a set of policy proposals that simply doubles down on the dumb policies of the past.

Unfortunately, Senate public safety chair Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, doesn't share this philosophy, and has instead chosen to ignore what works at the expense of scoring political points.

The GOP Senate's primary solution to rising crime isn't any significant policy improvements or additional resources for law enforcement, but instead is just giving tens of millions of dollars of direct payments to current and prospective law enforcement officers. This approach ignores the immediacy of the problem.

It's vital we recognize that while such recruitment and retention efforts are admirable, they are not timely and shouldn't be sold as an end-all cure for crime. Funding our current cops will continue to produce current results, and funding prospective cops will not magically materialize additional qualified cadets in the next year.

To be clear, the law enforcement investments would be less concerning if they didn't come at the expense of actual public safety solutions. Police Chief William Blair Anderson of St. Cloud said it best during a Senate hearing earlier this year: "This is not something we're going to be able to hire or arrest our way out of." He advocated a large permanent investment in the type of violence prevention work that he uses in St. Cloud.

Unfortunately, this fell on deaf ears, as the Senate instead chose to avoid making major investments in victim support, drug addiction and mental health services that have a proven record of helping increase law enforcement capacity by preventing and responding to crime that law enforcement would otherwise have to address.

House DFLers, however, were listening.

We listened to Chief Anderson, to nationally renowned Princeton Sociology Prof. Patrick Sharkey, to community violence prevention professionals, victims' advocates, mayors, county commissioners and countless people personally impacted by rising crime from across the state. We heard from folks in rural communities struggling with getting access to treatment facilities for opioid addiction, statewide domestic violence advocates coping with rising victimization and a funding shortage created by the Trump administration's failure to fully fund the Violence Against Women Act and mental health crisis response team coordinators in the suburbs struggling to find room in their budgets to continue their impactful services.

They all make the same ask: Please provide permanent funding for local communities to continue and expand this transformational public safety work. We responded by placing their recommendations into the House Public Safety Finance Bill.

The package invests $200 million in proven, transformative and innovative solutions to help Minnesota tackle some of the largest challenges to keeping communities safe. Unlike the Senate approach, this bill isn't built to engineer political slogans for political gain while dividing our state along regional and racial lines. Instead it's built to beat back crime by arming law enforcement with additional investigators, analysts, state assistance from prosecutors, mental health crisis response personnel, probation monitoring, victims' services, embedded social workers, juvenile diversion programs, drug treatment facilities, equipment and much more.

House Democrats have repeatedly invested more resources in law enforcement and proposed more solutions to promote best practices in law enforcement than the GOP Senate has. We have done both, year after year, to demonstrate how serious we are about not playing politics with public safety.

It's time the Senate Republicans stop trying to make Minnesota more like Mississippi. It's time we come together to pass real, innovative public safety solutions.

Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, is a member of the Minnesota House.