Minneapolis still owes outside police agencies for response to riots, Republicans say

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, claimed Minneapolis still owes several law enforcement agencies for their response to the May riots.

Minnesota Senate Media Services/YouTube

(The Center Square) – Senate Republicans are introducing legislation aimed at providing an alternative to spending $35 million on an emergency contingency fund for Derek Chauvin’s March trial.

Chauvin stands accused of killing George Floyd in 2020, an event that set off riots not only in Minneapolis, but nationwide.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, claimed Minneapolis still owes several law enforcement agencies for their response to the May riots.

Senate Republicans argued the bill would hold cities accountable to pay their mutual aid agreements and provide a process for public safety reimbursement without spending general fund dollars.

“There are consequences to taking actions to defund the police. It doesn’t matter if you are a small town, a growing city, or a developed urban center: public safety is a priority you cannot ignore,” Gazelka said in a statement.

“While the governor wants to set up a separate fund to bailout Minneapolis’s City Council from their poor budget decisions, we are holding the line and encouraging them to reconsider their priorities.”

Gazelka argued the mutual aid agreement would ensure neighboring cities would respond to crises without worrying if their own taxpayers would be left with the bill.

Sen. Bill Weber, R-Luverne, sponsored the bill to allow cities that provided mutual aid but haven’t been reimbursed to apply to take the owed amount from the other city’s Local Government Aid (LGA).

“Local Government Aid is a tool we already have funds for. Part of the $4.5 billion increase in spending in Governor’s Walz’s proposed budget is this special fund to protect Minneapolis,” Weber said in a statement.

“Respectfully, we have to balance our state budget, and Minneapolis has the money for public safety. If they aren’t paying their bills or need more mutual aid than they can afford after defunding their own police by $8 million, we’re not going to ask taxpayers to foot that bill.”

Republicans argued creating the $35 million fund that could be spent only on Minneapolis’s public safety was a bailout.

They argued statewide taxpayer dollars shouldn’t fund Minneapolis public safety since the city council cut $8 million from their police budget, while other cities fund public safety via local taxpayer dollars.

“[W]e want to be sure that no city council who knowingly votes to defund their police department is bailed out by the rest of the state,” Gazelka said. “Using LGA to reimburse unpaid mutual aid agreements are the guardrails we want in place.”

Roughly 100 Minneapolis officers are on medical leave, and in total, the city has 640 sworn available offers – 200 fewer than in 2019, according to Mayor Jacob Frey. There’s also a pending lawsuit alleging Minneapolis violated its charter by understaffing police officers.

On Tuesday, three Minnesota police groups said response for mutual aid requests might suffer because of political rhetoric against police officers.

“Our members remain concerned … 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,” they wrote.

On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz pushed for legislators to allocate $35 million in a fund to keep the peace during Chauvin’s trial.

Gazelka said Walz could call in the National Guard and State Patrol to keep the peace and added that Republicans don’t trust handing over large amounts of money to Walz after he “raided” the disaster relief fund to rebuild Hennepin County after the riots.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, responded, advocating for the DFL public safety plan. “We are grateful for the public service of law enforcement who help preserve peace and safety for Minnesotans while respecting their constitutional and human rights,” Hortman said in a statement.

“We want to make sure that they are funded and prepared. House Democrats passed this legislation out of the Public Safety Committee Tuesday with no support from Republicans. Democrats are standing up to provide public safety for all Minnesotans, and we expect Republicans to join us.”