DFL true colors on display when it comes to ‘support’ for law enforcement

The Bait

In 2023, Governor Tim Walz’s budget proposal included funding for public safety in the form of a one-time $300 million infusion divided between cities and counties over 10,000 people. The funding was presented as open-ended and encouraged individual jurisdictions to use their portions of the funding to address public safety needs specific to their jurisdiction.

As part of the announcement, the Walz administration touted the funding as broad and providing for local control over how it could be used.

The Switch

Then came the sausage-making that is our legislative process. 

Ultimately the funding was authorized in December 2023, but during conference committee in which not one Republican was allowed to be a part of the committee, the DFL placed key restrictions on the use of funding relevant to law enforcement. 

Specifically, the legislation prohibited jurisdictions from using the aid to purchase “an armored or tactical vehicle or substantially similar vehicle.”

So much for local control and for honoring the judgment of individual jurisdictions to identify and prioritize funding to meet the needs of their specific situations. 

Just a month and a half later we all witnessed the dangers our public safety officers face when two police officers and a firefighter were fatally shot during a standoff with an armed suspect in Burnsville. Law enforcement utilized several armored vehicles coming from a variety of metro agencies to help keep responding officers safe. One of those vehicles was reportedly hit 41 times by the suspect before he killed himself. 

A few weeks later, in Oakdale, police officers in another standoff were pinned down behind squad cars by another suspect until an armored vehicle could respond to safely extract them.

Then just a few weeks after the Oakdale incident a Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy was shot during a vehicle pursuit. 

That incident prompted Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher to ask,

“Can you care about us BEFORE we are dead?” 

The rhetorical question was made in reference to the shows of support that often come from politicians and the public only after an officer is killed. Sadly, those shows of support are too often bookended by second guessing and opposition towards law enforcement when the grieving period has “safely” passed.

Attempts at a Fix

As a result of these horrific incidents of violence, and the recognition that assaults on our law enforcement have doubled since 2016, Representative Paul Novotny, (R), made a motion to the full House of Representatives on March 14, for an urgency floor vote to amend the legislation that had restricted to use of public safety aid from being used towards armored vehicles.

As Rep. Novotny and several others noted in the pre-vote debate, this was a chance for legislators to demonstrate how they really felt about law enforcement. A vote to amend the restrictions and allow jurisdictions the ability to use the aid to purchase armor would speak volumes about whether the House members cared about law enforcement officers “before they are dead,” not just after.

Rep. Aisha Gomez, (DFL), the Tax Committee Chair, spoke in opposition to the amendment citing rhetoric about the militarization of law enforcement, and describing the amendment as leading to the purchase of “tanks and Bradley’s,” which is an absurd and misinformed description of the defensive nature of the armored vehicles used by Minnesota’s law enforcement.

In a party line vote the DFL majority voted to reject the amendment and refused to allow jurisdictions the ability to use the aid to fund the purchase of armored vehicles for law enforcement. 

The vote should speak volumes to Minnesotans — when and where it really counts, the DFL ultimately fails to support our law enforcement.

On March 19, Republican House members again attempted to remove the restrictions placed on the public safety aid during a Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee hearing. After spirited debate, the effort again was voted down by the DFL majority in the committee.

The Takeaway

The DFL-led legislature must do better. Our embattled law enforcement officers and the citizens they protect deserve it.