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US Minnesota officials clash over how to pay for security costs for trial in death of George Floyd

02:30  05 february  2021
02:30  05 february  2021 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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MINNEAPOLIS —As Minneapolis braces for the murder trial next month of the former police officer filmed with his knee on George Floyd's neck, a debate has erupted among Minnesota lawmakers over who should foot the bill for security costs.

Gov. Tim Walz (D) has asked the state legislature to approve a $35 million law enforcement emergency fund that would be used to reimburse local governments for “unplanned or extraordinary public safety events that exhaust local resources.”

While Walz has pitched the fund as a long-term emergency reserve that would benefit communities in crisis across the state, the immediate focus would be to help the city of Minneapolis and state law enforcement agencies prepare for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the first of four former Minneapolis police officers set to be tried for Floyd’s murder. The trial is scheduled for March 8.

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Protests after Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, turned violent, leaving an estimated 1,500 buildings across the Twin Cities damaged or destroyed, and state and local officials have expressed concern about fresh unrest surrounding the Chauvin trial. They point to the riots that erupted in Los Angeles in 1992 after the verdict in the Rodney King trial, and protests after the 2016 trial of the Baltimore police officers acquitted in the death of Freddie Gray.

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“If history is any indication here, these [trials] can be incredibly volatile,” Walz said. He told reporters that a lesson of last year’s unrest was that state and local officials “need to be prepared.”

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“We know that the odds are pretty good this is going to attract a large number of people. … We need to be ready,” Walz said.

The emergency fund would help Minneapolis reimburse other local law enforcement agencies that send officers to assist with security around the trial.

But the plan has drawn criticism from Republican lawmakers who say they won’t support sending additional aid to Minneapolis. They criticized members of the Minneapolis City Council for approving cuts to the city’s police budget and for anti-police rhetoric after Floyd’s death, including a recently revived ballot effort to dismantle the police department.

“Now they come to Minnesota with this request,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R) said at a news conference Thursday.

Gazelka said Republicans would not “bail out” Minneapolis, accusing city leaders there of having a “very negative attitude” about police and a flawed approach to public safety. “Actions to defund the police have consequences,” he said.

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Republican lawmakers said they planned to introduce counter legislation that would require the city to fund mutual-aid agreements with other public safety agencies to deploy officers to the city using existing state-allocated municipal funds. Minneapolis, Gazelka said, “needs to pay its bills.”

Several members of the Minneapolis City Council, including President Lisa Bender, did not respond to requests for comment. Mayor Jacob Frey (D) declined an interview request but said through a spokeswoman, “There should be no room for partisanship at such a pivotal moment for our city, region and state.”

The back-and-forth came amid fresh concerns about police staffing in Minneapolis. More than eight months after Floyd’s death, the city has faced dueling crises — a dramatic increase in crime and a historic wave of departures by officers that the police chief has warned could leave the force unable to respond to emergencies.

On Thursday, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told the city council the department was down to 638 sworn officers — roughly 200 fewer than a year ago. Of that total, another 155 officers were on leave and not expected to return to duty. That means the department has fallen below 500 working officers — a number Arradondo warned last fall would jeopardize its crime response and force the department to pick and choose which emergency calls to attend, further eroding public trust in the agency.

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The presentation was made as council members consider whether to fund new cadet classes scheduled for this year. That would increase the number of officers in the city by about 30 by the end of the year — an increase that some residents have argued is not nearly enough to make up for the loss of officers on the streets.

In December, the city council approved a budget request allowing Arradondo to sign mutual-aid agreements with other public safety agencies in the region to temporarily hire patrol officers to compensate for the city’s officer shortage. But to date, no outside agencies have signed on — adding to the urgency of Walz’s funding request.

Arradondo has estimated that the city will need about $7 million of additional funding to pay for officer overtime and other costs related to security linked to the Floyd trial — a number cited in a letter that Gazelka sent in late December to Walz calling on the governor to consider emergency public safety funding.

On Thursday, Gazelka acknowledged that he sent the letter endorsing that level of extra funding, but he said he could not support Walz’s proposed $35 million emergency fund. In response, Walz’s office accused Republicans of playing politics with public safety.

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“The state of Minnesota has been working with local police departments for months to prepare for this global event,” Walz spokesman Teddy Tschann said. “Messing around with local government aid to punish the City of Minneapolis is not a serious plan to prepare for a public safety challenge of this magnitude.”

The debate should not jeopardize the state’s plans. Walz has said he will send state patrol officers to Minneapolis and is likely to activate the National Guard to help keep the peace. But state officials say more local police are needed to help secure the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, prosecutors on Thursday asked the judge overseeing the criminal case in Floyd’s Memorial Day death to reinstate a charge of third-degree murder against Chauvin and add third-degree aiding and abetting murder charges for the other three officers implicated in the killing — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao. Those officers are set to stand trial in August.

The move comes after a state appellate court this week upheld a third-degree murder conviction against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, who was convicted in the 2017 killing of Justine Damond, an Australian woman who was shot as police responded to her 911 call about a possible sexual assault occurring in the alley behind her home.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill had dismissed the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin in October, ruling that it was “not appropriate” for the case because Minnesota case law “requires the act causing the ‘death of another’ must be eminently dangerous ‘to others.’ ”

But prosecutors asked Cahill to reconsider, citing the appeal court’s ruling in the Noor case that stated that a third-degree murder charge could be applicable “even if the death-causing act was directed at a single person.”

a large tall tower with a clock on the side of a building: The Hennepin County Public Safety Facility is seen during the first court appearance of former police officer Derek Chauvin on June 8, 2020, in Minneapolis, in the death of George Floyd while in police custody. © Salwan Georges/The Washington Post The Hennepin County Public Safety Facility is seen during the first court appearance of former police officer Derek Chauvin on June 8, 2020, in Minneapolis, in the death of George Floyd while in police custody.

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usr: 3
This is interesting!