As ‘progressive’ public safety policies fail, are Minnesotans recognizing it?

Recent efforts by progressive politicians and our media have tried to suggest that progressive policies have sent crime into a retreat. They cite slight decreases in select crime rates in 2022, but are less clear when acknowledging that the decreased rates remain far above the norm of a pre-George Floyd era Minnesota.

Many Minnesotans know criminals aren’t in retreat — they see it, feel it, and taste it. But have Minnesotans really woken to this reality, or will they continue to naively support progressive public safety policies that have led to so much chaos in our state since 2020?

Randomness not captured in data

There has been a palpable change in the sense of safety and security in Minnesota since 2020, no matter one’s race, age, or economic status. You could say the change has become a lamentable equalizer.

The impact of crime in 2023 isn’t accurately measured in data. The perception for many Minnesotans is that things have changed for the worse, and the saying “perception is reality” has never been truer. There is a randomness and a level of violence and disorder that has never been present before.

Rampant car theft with juvenile offenders taunting the police to chase them; random assaults and robberies; retail takeover thefts; suburbanites being carjacked in their driveways while unloading groceries; a man shot and killed in front of his family while preventing teens from tampering with his car; armed robberies, assaults, and murder happening in our schools — these are the signs of historically troubled times in Minnesota.

These examples aren’t happening in a vacuum, they’re happening because of the progressive movement which has championed the war on cops, the emergence of “progressive prosecutors,” and a state legislature more concerned with improving the lives of offenders then the lives of law-abiding citizens.

And the real kicker? We’ve collectively sat back and watched it happen, too willing to buy into the rhetoric of “over-incarceration,” “disparities,” and “systemic racism,” and too timid to speak out against the “Defund the Police,” “Black Lives Matter,” or “Freedom Fund” organizations, for fear of being labeled “racist.”

Different this time around    

In 1995, the New York Times labeled Minneapolis, “Murderapolis.” Violent crime rates exceeded today’s rates, but there was a difference. 

In 1995, law-abiding Minnesotans were, for the most part, able to avoid becoming a statistic. Much of the violence was confined to gangs and to a limited geography, enabling most Minnesotans to remain safe if they chose to.

Another difference was that in 1995, Minnesotans understood who the good guys were, and they supported the police and the criminal justice system in going after criminals. That support led to nearly 22 years of solid reductions in Minnesota’s crime rate.

Not today. Criminals in 2023 operate with no geographical boundaries or fear and have been emboldened by progressive efforts that have demonized the police and the criminal justice system, while excusing and in many cases honoring the criminals. 

As a result, police have (by necessity and design) backed off of effective proactive policing, and our criminal justice system has failed to hold offenders accountable by implementing policies designed to address “offender disparities” that don’t exist.

This is a horribly dangerous combination for Minnesota, but here we are.

The impact

All of this has led Minnesota into the throes of a retention and recruitment crisis in policing.  The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) for example is down some 400 officers from 2019 when it had over 900 officers. MPD’s most recent new hire class consisted of just nine officers — they usually have classes of 35-40. The numbers leaving the MPD continue to far outpace what they have been able to hire. In the words of Chief O’Hara, “It’s absolutely not sustainable.”

Ironically, the war of cops has resulted in a seemingly unintended consequence — a marked decrease in diversity of officer candidates. Of the nine officers MPD just hired, not a single African American was represented, and all the hires were male – six white and three Asian.  Will progressives acknowledge or take ownership of this new reality? Not likely.

Progressive “reforms” have done nothing but undermine the effectiveness of our criminal justice system in deterring crime, incapacitating offenders, and providing public safety to law abiding citizens.

If arrested, progressive pre-trial policies often put violent criminals right back on the street — now with the arguably accurate perception that there are no consequences to their actions. If convicted, progressive prosecutors and judges seemingly go out of their way to give 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances, dismissing mandatory minimum sentences and established sentencing guidelines. If imprisoned, a progressive new law now ensures prison inmates will serve just 50 percent of their sentence in custody and the other 50 percent on “supervision” — and the supervision is now capped by law at five years.

Legislatively, the progressive led legislation of the 2023 session amounts to word salad, absent any measures of offender accountability which will keep Minnesotans safe in any meaningful way.

A list of legislative additions Minnesotans will now “enjoy” includes supervision abatement; prosecutor-initiated sentence reductions; a new clemency review commission; earned incentive release programs; automatic expungements; and multiple new “bias” crimes.

Even legislative initiatives designed to sound tough were nothing but a charade. Take the new carjacking statute. Instead of assigning an enhanced penalty for the new crime, the Legislature maintained the same offense level as the robbery statute that carjackings had been charged out as. The effect? No effect. That is until significant public outcry nudged the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to apply a tougher guideline to the new offense — a sign of hope?

Our reality

Sadly, progressives have been largely successful in their efforts to “reform” Minnesota’s criminal justice system in recent years. Collectively we have been far too slow in understanding the negative impact of these progressive policies, and far too timid in challenging them when we do.

As a result, we are in danger of entering into a “new normal” where we just accept that times have changed, and we can’t be as safe as we once were.

That’s unacceptable and completely avoidable if we choose.

Minnesotans must awaken to the harm progressive criminal justice system policies have created, and boldly demand a return to more sensible conservative policies that value the welfare of law-abiding citizens over that of criminal offenders.