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STATEMENT: Coalition of Minneapolis and St. Paul legislators respond to the SAFE Act

Friday, February 19, 2021

St. Paul, Minnesota —Reps. Aisha Gomez (DFL-Minneapolis), Esther Agbaje (DFL-Minneapolis), Hodan Hassan (DFL-Minneapolis), Athena Hollins (DFL-St. Paul), John Thompson (DFL-St. Paul), and Jay Xiong (DFL-St. Paul) released the following statement on legislation for a State Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) Account:

“The bill that was before the House earlier this week would set up a reimbursement fund to support mutual aid agreements between law enforcement units across the state. While this fund is described as necessary for preparations for the Derek Chauvin trial, it is not a limited appropriation specific to the trial. The bill would set up an account to allow law enforcement units across the state to respond to emergency events and draw on state funds to supplement those costs.

The fund has also been positioned as an opportunity to help the City of Minneapolis cover excess police costs during the trial, without cutting costs for other programs. Again, this is a stop gap for a long-term issue. City budgets have been ravaged by COVID, and the state should be using its funds to help cities through COVID in the areas of housing, education, healthcare, violence prevention, and economic support to survive the pandemic. As described, the fund appears to ensure that police in Minneapolis are supported through the upcoming trial, which we believe is necessary, but in its current form, this is a short term solution that does not address long term budget considerations for public safety and emergency preparation.

Some conditions related to accountability were proposed for the fund, and the work that went into them is commendable. Unfortunately, these conditions do not provide enough oversight to ensure that these funds will be used appropriately, are limited in scope, or show that the report can be used in a meaningful way to enact further reforms.

The lack of accountability measures is uncomfortable considering the actions we saw from the Minneapolis Police Department in the summer of 2020. We also know that work needs to be done to reach true reforms to build trust in law enforcement. By providing this permanent funding with limited conditions, we will find ourselves in the same position that has brought us to this point.

Therefore, we could not in good conscience vote for this bill. Our efforts will continue to focus on long-term solutions that root out the problem -- community racial healing investments, violence prevention programs, rebuilding our businesses, and meaningful police reform. The priority for our community should be as urgent, if not more, than an ongoing fund for the police that is just a band aid to the problem.”

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