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Walz calls for public safety funding ahead of MPD officer trials

The proposal's price tag is estimated at $35 million.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz has pitched a new public safety budget proposal to help pay for potential increased law enforcement costs starting this spring.

Walz's State Aid for Emergencies (SAFE) Account budget proposal is tied to fears of civil unrest around the trials of the officers charged with killing George Floyd – leading the governor to press for a quick decision.

In a January letter to Minnesota state government leaders, the governor called for the funds to be appropriated by Feb. 8. He voiced concerns about balancing law enforcement around both potential unrest and the aftermath of January's breach of the US Capitol.

"Right now, local communities and the state are focused on protecting the Minnesota State Capitol and other government buildings in light of recent threats from extremists," Walz wrote. "They are balancing that immediate public safety need with intense planning efforts to keep Minnesotans safe during the trials of the police officers charged with killing George Floyd."

Walz and other public figures, including Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, held a 2 p.m. press conference about the proposal. You can watch it below.

The proposal's price tag is estimated at $35 million. Commissioner Harrington, asked about the cost during Wednesday's press conference, said it was based on conversations with law enforcement leaders in the Twin Cities metro area and the cost of policing unrest in May and June. 

"We've never done this before," Harrington said. 

He said the dollar amount is a "good-faith estimate of what we believe the cost could get to." He said that by working with community leaders ahead of the trials, officials believe they can reduce potential costs. 

Asked whether Minnesota law enforcement is prepared for the coming months if Walz's proposal doesn't pass, Harrington said the state was "moving in the right direction." 

He said he is confident that the state will be able to mobilize enough state resources to "do what is needed to be done" around the trials or other events.

Walz added that he thinks the proposal is a "golden opportunity" for the legislature to work together, and that policing the coming months would be much harder without its passage. 

The trial of Derek Chauvin is set to begin March 8, and the trials of J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao will begin on Aug. 23. 

"The certainty of those dates add urgency to the planning and is the reason we are asking for your quick action in appropriating resources in the event there is unrest during or after the trials," Walz wrote. 

The proposed fund would also be used to help cities and counties recover their costs of responding to unrest and providing extra security around high-profile trials.

The House Public Safety Committee is already working on a bill to create the fund – the SAFE Act – which would allow the State of Minnesota to provide cost-sharing assistance to local communities for “extraordinary and unplanned public safety events that exhaust available local resources.”

Walz's letter was addressed to House Speaker Melissa Hortman, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent. 

   

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