‘Continued demonization’ of police raises security concerns for Chauvin trial

Republican leaders said Walz's proposal would let Minneapolis off the hook for understaffing and underfunding its police department.

National Guard soldiers in downtown Minneapolis in August. (Rebecca Brannon/Alpha News)

Three Minnesota law enforcement unions said they are concerned that outside agencies won’t help with security for Derek Chauvin’s March trial in Minneapolis because of the city’s “continued demonization” of police.

Chauvin, who was accused of killing George Floyd last May, will go on trial March 8.

Gov. Tim Walz’s biennial budget proposal calls for the creation of a $35 million special fund called SAFE, State Aid for Emergencies Account.

Ex-officer Derek Chauvin’s mugshot

The SAFE fund would be for “unplanned or extraordinary” events and would reimburse cities that send officers to Minneapolis to assist with the trial, according to the Department of Public Safety’s budget proposal.

“In cases where local law enforcement needs additional support to respond to an incident, they request assistance from surrounding communities’ law enforcement through mutual aid agreements so that the requesting community will reimburse some of the costs to provide aid,” the budget document explains.

The governor is also requesting that an extra $4 million be set aside for law enforcement personnel costs related to the trial, like overtime and lodging.

He authored a letter to state legislators last month asking them to begin the process of implementing these budget requests no later than Feb. 8, so the funds can be used in March.

“This urgent issue requires your attention prior to the passage of a biennial budget later this session,” Walz wrote. “It is imperative that we plan for every possible outcome of those trials now.”

A bill was introduced in the House Monday in accordance with Walz’s requests.

However, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association raised some concerns in a letter to the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee.

This combined group represents more than 300 police chiefs, 87 county sheriffs, and over 10,000 officers.

While they do support the governor’s proposed SAFE fund, the letter states that they are concerned about the probable lack of “mutual aid” from surrounding law enforcement agencies for the March trial.

“Our members remain concerned, however, that no matter what legislation is passed, the response for mutual aid will not be as robust as the public may expect. Our members’ concern is due to the continued demonization of law enforcement officers by certain public officials at various levels of government,” says the letter.

In a recent interview with WCCO, Walz said, “We know that this trial is going to bring out passions. We know that it is going to be a magnet for people to try to come to Minneapolis regardless of what that outcome of justice is.”

“I’m just asking folks to help make sure we’re ready for that,” he continued.

Debate in the Legislature

During a House hearing on the bill Tuesday, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington noted that local law enforcement officers say three barriers prevent them from providing mutual aid: liability, political rhetoric surrounding the situation, and a “stable vehicle for reimbursement,” which Walz’s proposal would cover.

Harrington said some officers in jurisdictions other than Minneapolis have a hard time seeing their extra work as “mutual aid.”

“When you’re coming from Greater Minnesota, from the far northern parts of Cook, and you’re coming to help Minneapolis out, it’s hard for them to envision how Minneapolis is ever going to end up in Cook in a mutual aid situation,” he said.

Minnesota State Patrol Chief Colonel Matt Langer also offered his perspective on the bill, saying mutual aid is a “real need” and the proposed bill would be able to solve “at least one” of the problems cited by Harrington.

Republican leaders said Walz’s SAFE proposal would let Minneapolis off the hook for understaffing and underfunding its police department.

Deputy Minority Leader Anne Neu, R-North Branch, said “the governor needs a wake up call” during a Wednesday press conference.

“$35 million is not going to magically solve the underlying problem,” said Neu. “Now we put all of Minnesota on the hook for bad decisions being made by the city of Minneapolis.”

Gov. Walz held a press conference shortly after Republicans and encouraged the Legislature to act with urgency in enacting the SAFE Account.

But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, indicated that the Senate wouldn’t pass the governor’s proposal in its current form.

“We are not going to bail out Minneapolis city council after they have made cuts to the public safety budget. Actions to defund the police have consequences,” he said. “Instead, we will propose an alternative later this week to make sure mutual aid will be reimbursed, law enforcement can respond, and without taking general fund dollars away from education, healthcare, or transportation.”

– –

Anthony Gockowski contributed to this report. 


Rose Williams

Rose Williams is an assistant editor for Alpha News.