Minnesota House Republicans are launching a handful of public-safety bills, after crime—including violent crime—has spiked in Minneapolis and St. Paul. House Republican leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and his caucus are calling these bills their “Safety in Our Cities” agenda. Daudt says he hopes the bills will “jump-start a discussion and combat the recent spike in crime in parts of the Twin Cities and on light rail.”
According to Bob Woodson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, “in a one-year period, [Minneapolis police] were unable to respond immediately to more than 6,000 ‘priority one’ 911 calls, which include reports of sexual assault, shootings and robberies.” The same report said that over a two-year period, from July 2017 to July 2019, over 20,000 911 calls lingered on the Minneapolis Police Department’s dispatch system.
But Democrat Mayors Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter, of Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively, are trying to cast doubt on the narrative of a spike in crime.
St. Paul Democrat Mayor Melvin Carter called the House Republican bills a repeat of “failed strategies” using “misleading political games.” Carter has pointed out that an overall measure of violent crime was slightly down in 2019 versus 2018—even though murders were at the highest level since the mid-1990s, and property crime was also higher in St. Paul compared to the year earlier.
Minneapolis Democrat Mayor Jacob Frey has a harder time here, as both violent crime and property crime in Minneapolis was up sharply versus the year prior. But that didn’t stop Frey from sitting in the audience as the House GOP launched “Safety in Our Cities,” and yelling “not true!” while Daudt was speaking.
Frey’s outburst was in response to Daudt saying that Mayors Carter and Frey were not responding to their police chief’s calls for more officers.
After yelling “not true!” Frey took to the microphone to say that “this press conference was filled with misinformation and lack of fact.”
Who’s telling the truth?
St. Paul Democrat Mayor Melvin Carter’s 2019 budget added 9 officers, but this year’s budget reduces authorized strength by 5 officers.
In Frey’s neck of the woods, last year, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called for 400 more officers in the next 5 years. Arradondo cited the amount of 911 calls that are not being responded to, and the spike in violent crime in Minneapolis.
In response, Frey proposed adding only 14 officers, but met opposition from his city council on even that meager proposal. He and the city council eventually agreed to make sure that Minneapolis has up to 888 officers, which is the maximum amount previously allowed—meaning the city did not raise the size of its allowable police force at all.
The GOP bills
The Republican bills would increase penalties for gang members who commit gun crimes, boost funding to fight gang and drug trafficking efforts, increase light-rail safety which includes adding to the number of Metro Transit officers, and require cities with state-funded sporting and event facilities to provide adequate police-protection or risk losing state funding.
After the press conference ended, Frey proceeded to follow Matt Grossell (R-Clearbrook), a former law enforcement officer, out into the hallway. Video footage shows Grossell walking away and Frey persistently following Grossell. Knowing that cameras were rolling, Frey—still following Grossell—accused him of lying.
Grossell responded: “Stop lying. Stop lying to your community. Stop putting your community in danger. Stop tying the hands of your law enforcement.”
Rep. Matt Grossell and Mpls Mayor Jacob Frey continue conversation at Capitol. Frey tells Grossell Republicans need to stick to facts; Grossell tells Frey to stop lying pic.twitter.com/BHvklJr2sV
— John Croman (@JohnCroman) February 17, 2020