Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday urged lawmakers to swiftly approve $35 million in state funding to help law enforcement agencies plan and pay for any unanticipated costs that may stem from maintaining peace during the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Walz, who has faced criticism — including from Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey — over his sluggish response to quell rioting last summer, is calling on the Legislature to ensure Minnesota is prepared for any potential unrest that may come throughout the trial, which starts next month.
Without the money, the state risks being caught understaffed and unprepared for large demonstrations if they turn destructive, he said.
“We will hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” Walz said.
His request is facing resistance from Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, who said he would offer an alternative later this week, attacked the Minneapolis City Council. “We are not going to bail out Minneapolis City Council after they have made cuts to the public safety budget,” the East Gull Lake Republican said in a statement. “Actions to defund the police have consequences.”
State Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch, criticized Minneapolis city leaders for what she called the continued “demonization” of law enforcement, which she said the $35 million does not solve.
Walz said Republicans are being divisive. He pointed out the cost of beefing up security at the Minnesota Capitol last month during the height of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, when six Republican lawmakers joined a protest that included armed groups like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters millitia.
The “Storm the Capitol” rally in St. Paul remained peaceful but required a robust presence by Minnesota State Patrol at the Capitol campus and the governor’s residence, where pro-Trump demonstrators later amassed.
Walz said the need is urgent and would allow local agencies to begin entering mutual aid agreements that would allow for a response to any large events sparked by the trial.
Specifically, Walz wants to create a reimbursement fund for local agencies that assist in any response, including large demonstrations or rioting. Cities, counties and state law enforcement agencies would be eligible to seek reimbursement for expenses not covered by federal or state disaster assistance programs.
Eligible expenses include overtime costs, travel, food, lodging and supplies.
Walz’s funding request has already been approved by one House committee on a party-line vote.
An amendment approved by the committee would require police departments to adopt policies to “develop a comprehensive model policy on responding to public assemblies.”
Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said he supported the policy, saying, “It’s good practice.”