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Minn. Legislature passes emergency funding for Chauvin trial security costs

Funding for extra security during last week’s trial was passed retroactively on Tuesday with bipartisan support

Hennepin County Public Safety Facility

Chain link fence with barbed wire, concrete barriers and concertina wire surrounded the Hennepin County Public Safety Facility, the Hennepin County Government Center and City Hall as crews worked to fortify the buildings in preparation for the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.

Anthony Souffle/Minneapolis Star Tribune /TNS

By Briana Bierschbach
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota lawmakers pushed through emergency funding on Tuesday to help cover extra security costs the state racked up ahead of last week’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

The state House and Senate passed a $7.8 million package with broad bipartisan support after Gov. Tim Walz requested additional funding to cover costs for state troopers, Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and out-of-state law enforcement stationed across the Twin Cities.

Ultimately, the jury’s guilty murder and manslaughter verdict prompted peaceful marches and rallies. But the state marshaled the Minnesota National Guard and a massive law enforcement presence in preparation for possible unrest if the former Minneapolis police officer wasn’t convicted in the killing of George Floyd. More than 1,500 buildings and businesses were burned, looted and destroyed after Floyd’s killing last May.

“The clear message of this bill is that we support the fact that we needed the police from other states, and from other communities and the National Guard, frankly, to help us keep the streets safe,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said.

Minnesota’s divided Legislature has struggled to agree on funding to cover costs for law enforcement and security around the trial. The Senate passed a similar $9 million funding package ahead of the verdict last week, but the proposal went nowhere in the House, which is controlled by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

The governor’s administration sent a scaled-back request to the Legislature this week, given the peaceful response to the verdict. Walz said he will sign the bill.

Democrats in both chambers have been reluctant to pass extra law enforcement funding without clear indication from Senate Republican leaders that they’ll consider additional police accountability measures this session.

The House is pushing proposals that establish civilian oversight of police, end qualified immunity for officers and limit when police can stop drivers for vehicle violations, among others. Members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus sent a letter to Walz and top legislative leaders on Tuesday asking them to immediately pass police reform as part of the state’s public safety and judiciary budget bill.

Last week Gazelka said the Senate would no longer hold fact finding hearings on public safety measures and instead consider those in the broader budget debate.

“I truly believe that the public does want accountability, they don’t just want a check for law enforcement,” said Democratic state Sen. Melisa Franzen, of Edina.

A similar divide between the House and Senate occurred when Walz previously proposed creating a $35 million “SAFE Account” to help pay for the mutual aid costs of law enforcement agencies that pitch in during emergencies in other communities, such as security needs around the Chauvin trial.

The House failed to pass a bill in February that included the money and police accountability provisions. The Senate approved some money to support police offering mutual aid, but did not want to tie accountability measures to the funds.

State Rep. Carlos Mariani, the DFL chair of the House’s public safety budget committee, asked his colleagues to support the additional funding Tuesday but not let up on the push for new police accountability measures.

“The need is real today to meet our deficiencies, but the need is real for police reform today,” he said. “We need to be as urgent over the crisis that many communities face with harmful police systemic behavior.”

(c)2021 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)