Repeat offenders

During an historic rise in violent crime, did Minnesota voters just ask for more of the same?

Crime and public safety issues were reportedly of high concern to Minnesota voters this election cycle. The crime problem that had exploded in our state in recent years was supposed to be a solidly persuasive issue that tipped the scales against the likes of Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Hennepin County Attorney candidate Mary Moriarty, and others.

Inexplicably, voters who have all felt the negative and corrosive effects of crime in some way went to the polls on November 8 and said, “I’ll take more of the same, please.”

In their first four years in office, Walz and Ellison managed to decimate law enforcement in Minnesota. While we should hold police officers accountable, Walz’s and Ellison’s response to officer-involved deadly force incidents involving people of color has been to vilify an entire profession. In doing so, they have amplified anti-police rhetoric, which has destroyed police morale and crippled recruitment and retention. As a result, all future public safety efforts will be built around an undermined police profession with a weakened foundation.

What are the other, less visible effects of Walz’s policies? Look no further than the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, made up largely of Walz appointees. This group has been quietly weakening, rather than strengthening, our sentencing policy, making it less likely that convicted criminals receive prison sentences. In fact, district court judges have set three consecutive records for the highest level of dispositional departures from prison commitments in our state’s history.

As Walz begins his second term, our prison incarceration rate ranks 48th lowest in the nation at 132/100,000. The national average is 303/100,000. This weak incarceration rate stands in stark contrast to the fact that in 2020, our Part 1 crime rate exceeded the national average for the first time in our state’s history.

Mary Moriarty, who most recently served as Hennepin County’s Public Defender, has vowed to make reforming the Minneapolis Police Department her top priority, despite the job’s primary purpose of prosecuting criminals.

Unfortunately, Moriarty’s election is part of an insidious movement across the nation to install progressives into public prosecutor roles. Prosecutors have a great deal of discretion in deciding what crimes they prosecute, whether they demand bail, and the terms of plea agreements. They have the power to turn the system on its head by making policy decisions that benefit offenders.

In an admirable move prior to the election, a sizeable number of senior assistant Hennepin County attorneys went public in their opposition to having Moriarty lead the office. Moriarty’s election will likely have devastating effects on personnel in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, on police-prosecutor relations, and on Hennepin County’s ability to control crime. Moriarty’s performance must be intently monitored and robustly evaluated.

Going forward, conservative opposition to progressive-led policies and bills related to public safety will be limited, and we could all pay a heavy price because of it.

Improved public safety was on the ballot, and the electorate chose the status quo. Ouch.