A welcomed mandate for law enforcement is re-emerging

Violent crime in Minnesota and in particular the metro area has spiked to unacceptable levels over the past two years. Early 2022 data indicates there is no appreciable retreat in the spike. Several key chiefs of police and sheriff positions have been in transition, and many law enforcement agencies continue to struggle with recruiting and retention issues. Couple these challenges with even broader philosophical challenges that exist in the form of progressive prosecutors, lenient judges, and a supervision centered corrections approach, and we find ourselves in a public safety dilemma.

Fortunately, there are signs of leadership and a mandate for law enforcement re-emerging, and they are welcomed.  

On May 3, US Attorney, District of Minnesota Andrew Lugar brought together several local, state, and federal law enforcement leaders to announce a plan to fight violent crime. A key strategy in the plan was to aggressively investigate and prosecute those committing armed carjackings, and other firearms related crimes. This announcement was well received by the public.

“To those who are committing these senseless act of violence, we will find you, we will take you off the street and you will be held accountable.”

Michael Paul, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Minneapolis

Perhaps more importantly, it was welcomed by law enforcement. Lugar’s announcement provided a much-needed mandate to law enforcement to fight crime again. Over the past two years far too many public safety and political leaders have withheld that mandate, instead choosing to vilify and condemn the profession as inherently flawed. This period of self-flagellation needed to end, and May 3 was a good start.

Since Lugar’s announcement there have been several sustained multi-jurisdictional efforts focusing on violent crime — see one example here. These initiatives have led to the seizure of dozens of firearms, the arrests of over a hundred offenders, and the prosecution of at least five carjacking defendants in Federal Court. 

Efforts like these can have a positive effect on public safety in our communities. The threat of federal prosecution is significant, and word travels fast on the street when criminals start getting diverted from state court to federal court. It’s been effective in the past, such as the mid 90’s when we fought our way out of the “Murderapolis” era through no nonsense, aggressive policing — and it can be effective again.

Efforts like these, and the mandate behind them, can have a significant impact on the law enforcement profession as well.  Solid support from internal leadership, the public, and politicians can help overcome the recruitment, retention, and morale issues facing law enforcement — arguably in more sustained ways than other strategies could. 

“This is amazing, like how we’ve come together around public safety. The service that you’re providing in this community is what people want to see on 36th and Penn, want to see on Broadway, want to see on Lake Street, and I encourage you to keep up the good work.”

LaTrisha Vetaw , Minneapolis Councilwoman, Ward 4, who joined roll call to commend law enforcement on the work being done to keep people safe.

The past two years have been abysmal terms of public safety. Sadly, much of it has been predictable and self-imposed. Vilification of our law enforcement only served to embolden criminals — and we all ended up paying a price. Recent proactive law enforcement initiatives represent a positive change. Law enforcement is beginning to sense a mandate from leadership and from the public. That in turn signals momentum towards law and order. 

Our challenge will be to sustain this momentum. The inevitable progressive calls of “over policing,” and “over incarceration” will come soon enough. We would be wise to reject these calls, and those who chose political opportunism over public safety leadership the past two years.