‘More of the same, please’

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 Governor Walz, Attorney General 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 yesterday and said, “I’ll take more of the same, please.” 

If creating an unwelcoming atmosphere for criminal behavior, and holding offenders accountable is important to you, there is reason for concern.

Governor Walz and Attorney General Ellison combined in their first terms to decimate law enforcement in Minnesota.  While no one disagrees with the need to hold officers accountable and to build public trust in law enforcement, 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 decimated police morale and crippled recruitment and retention.  As a result all future public safety efforts will be built on the weakened foundation that is an undermined police profession.

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 quietly been 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 history. 

Mary Moriarty, who most recently served as Hennepin County’s Public Defender (before being removed for creating a hostile workplace) has vowed to make reforming the Minneapolis Police Department her top priority. Prosecuting criminals is supposed to be the priority of course. 

Unfortunately, Moriarty’s election is part of an insidious movement across the nation to install progressives into the public prosecutor roles.  Prosecutors have a great deal of discretion in deciding what crimes they prosecute or whether they demand bail, etc.  Rather than look out for the interests of the people, they can turn the system on its head by making policy decisions that benefit offenders instead. 

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 in turn on Hennepin County’s ability to control crime.  Moriarty’s performance must be intently monitored and robustly evaluated.

All of this has been made even more problematic by the flipping of the Minnesota Senate from red to blue.  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.