Officer morale at all-time low, Minnesota lawmakers hear 

Meanwhile, more children and teenagers have been murdered in Minneapolis this year alone than have died of COVID-19 in all of Minnesota since the very beginning of the pandemic.

Left: St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson. Right: Chisago County Sheriff Brandon Thyen (Minnesota Senate Media Services/YouTube)

Police officers are hesitant to do their jobs as morale has hit an all-time low, law enforcement officials told a Minnesota Senate committee Thursday.

Sen. Warren Limmer began the joint committee hearing with a startling statistic: 54 people under the age of 18 have been shot this year in the Twin Cities. Seven have died.

To put that in perspective, four Minnesotans in the 0-19 age range have died of COVID-19 since the very beginning of the pandemic.

Nonetheless, Democratic senators objected to even holding the hearing in the first place, saying it was just another Republican attempt to “play politics.”

Some of the officials who spoke at Thursday’s hearing discussed the mental toll that the DFL’s “narrative against police” has had on officers.

“Simply put, officer morale, I believe, is at the lowest point that I’ve seen in my career,” said Maple Grove Police Chief Eric Werner.

Others criticized the judicial branch and county attorneys for failing to hold up their end of the bargain.

“That cannot continue,” St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson said. “Our job is to find bad guys and [arrest them]. When we do, imagine how frustrating that is if you’re the arresting officer and before you’ve finished your report, that person’s back out on the street.”

Chisago County Sheriff Brandon Thyen made similar comments, saying criminals know the “system is broken” and are taking advantage of it.

He called for stricter sentencing guidelines for repeat violent offenders.

“It’s obvious that these individuals have not learned and are not learning. Something has to be done to stop that,” he said.

Thyen also discussed the mental state of his deputies, who are “hesitant to do their jobs.”

“They are in fear of being prosecuted for making an error, fear of being harassed for doing their jobs based on political and media response. They’re concerned about the deadly force statute and where that will go. They’re concerned about the discussions of qualified immunity being taken away. All of this weighs on our deputies and our officers in the state of Minnesota,” he said.

With municipal elections less than two weeks away, another hot topic was the Minneapolis charter amendment — a proposal that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new “public safety” agency and strike staffing requirements from the City Charter.

If it passes, “we are all expecting dramatic increases in crime in Minneapolis and in St. Paul,” said Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.

“I’m hoping that the charter amendment does not pass, but if it does, it’s going to require some type of state intervention and the state patrol and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office do not have the resources to rescue Minneapolis from what will happen if [the police department] continues to shrink.”

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