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Public safety panel approves $151 million bill proposing ‘innovative solutions’ to fight rise in crime

Rep. Cedrick Frazier introduces his bill, HF4200, that proposes to spend $151 million on public safety programs focusing on partnering Minnesota police agencies with community-based crime-fighting groups. (Screenshot)
Rep. Cedrick Frazier introduces his bill, HF4200, that proposes to spend $151 million on public safety programs focusing on partnering Minnesota police agencies with community-based crime-fighting groups. (Screenshot)

Anyone reading headlines about the dramatic upswing in violent crime locally and nationally will likely agree that public safety is in a state of crisis.

Successfully addressing that means more than just spending money to hire more cops, says Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope).

He sponsors HF4200, which would spend $151 million on public safety programs focusing on partnering police with community-based crime-fighting groups focused on preventing crime in the first place.

“We just can’t hire our way out of this problem,” he said. “We need to innovate our way out.”

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill, as amended, Thursday on an 11-8 party-line vote and sent it to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Frazier called the bill the “public safety innovation package” at a press conference preceding the committee meeting.

To that end, the bill would create a Public Safety Innovation Board in the Office of Justice Programs within the Department of Public Safety.

In addition to monitoring trends and research on crime, the 18-member board would distribute $86 million in fiscal year 2023 for local community innovation grants to invest in local policing, investigation, reentry programs, victim services, co-responder programs, juvenile diversion, and other community-based strategies to prevent crime.

Grants would be available for the top-20 municipalities and tribal nations and top-20 counties with the highest crime rate or the highest growth in the crime rate.

“If we are going to address public safety in this moment of crisis, we need all hands on deck,” Frazier said.

The board would also distribute local community policing grants that could be used to recruit police officers, increase interactions between law enforcement and community members, and use crisis response teams with social workers or mental health providers.

Other appropriations in the bill include:

  • $15 million for body cameras for police officers and to store body camera video;
  • $10 million for grants to organizations addressing the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic in Minnesota;
  • $6 million for the Philando Castile Memorial Training Fund; and
  • $4.9 million to increase staffing in the Office of Justice Programs.

The body camera and video storage allocation would also require law enforcement agencies to release unredacted video to the family of someone killed by a police officer no later than five business days after the death.

Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie said that timeframe was unrealistic because police investigations into such incidents cannot be completed that soon and some video needs to be kept private during ongoing investigations.

Leslie testified as a representative of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association and the Minnesota Sheriffs Association, which issued a joint statement outlining other objections to the bill, many echoed by committee Republicans.

They include expanding the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board’s disciplinary power by removing a restriction that it can only suspend or revoke a peace officer’s license if the officer misconduct has resulted in a criminal conviction.

Also objectionable is a provision to create civilian oversight councils that would have expanded powers over law enforcement agencies, including the power to discipline officers.

Sen. D. Scott Dibble (DFL-Mpls) sponsors the companion bill, SF4194, which awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

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