The debate over public safety reached a fever pitch Monday when a Democratic lawmaker urged Gov. Tim Walz to show “some testicular fortitude.”
Lawmakers have until Wednesday to pass a two-year state budget, including a public safety omnibus bill. Senate Republicans, House Democrats, and Gov. Tim Walz reached an agreement on the contents of the bill over the weekend.
Republicans touted the fact that the agreement “does not include anti-police measures like the early release of convicted criminals, limiting traffic stops, unfunded mandates through law enforcement training standards, or any measures to defund police.”
This has angered some of the more progressive legislators in St. Paul, who believe the bill lacks meaningful police accountability measures.
State Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, said he has only received “lip service” from the governor’s office.
“Listen, the status quo is more dangerous than any, any gang in this state,” Thompson said during a Monday morning press conference.
He said Republicans who want to improve public safety should commit to investments in education, housing, and the Twin Cities business community.
“The only thing we’re getting here is more police,” said Thompson, who called policing an “ideal job for a man who does not like black men.”
“Governor, you have the power to do something and all I’ve been getting from your office is lip service. I mean that. All we’ve been getting from the governor is lip service,” Thompson continued. “There was no police accountability measures in this bill and you have the authority to veto this bill and say no. Show some testicular fortitude.”
Thompson then said Gov. Walz has “failed” the black community.
The freshman lawmaker sought to clarify his comments during a press conference with the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus, saying he chooses his words carefully and “never attacked the governor.”
The POCI Caucus asked Walz to “exercise his executive authority” to enact changes through the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) and vowed to get police accountability measures added to the bill before a final vote on Tuesday. Specific reforms they would like to see include “limiting pretextual stops, sign and release warrants, and rules around body camera footage.”
Gov. Walz announced executive action Monday afternoon to invest $15 million in community violence prevention programs, increase the transparency and accountability of the POST Board, and require state law enforcement agencies to develop a policy that will allow families to view body-camera footage within five days of a deadly force encounter.
Walz faced significant pressure last year to pull his endorsement of Thompson after the then-candidate made national headlines for his actions at a protest. Walz never did.