A Minneapolis police officer unrolls caution tape at a crime scene on June 16, 2020 in Minneapolis. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.
Senate Republicans on Thursday said they plan to offer tuition reimbursement, scholarships and recruitment bonuses to help bolster law enforcement as a profession, unveiling a $65 million proposal just days into the 2022 legislative session.
Republican lawmakers have made addressing public safety and rising violent crime in the Twin Cities their top legislative priority.
“The ‘defund the police’ movement and anti-police rhetoric has really played a negative toll on police officers and police departments,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona. “Law enforcement is an honorable profession. Republicans will continue to show police officers the respect and appreciation they deserve.”
Recruiting and retaining police officers has also become a Democratic priority. Gov. Tim Walz has called for financial recruitment tools, including tuition reimbursement, to attract more police officers.
In Minnesota, licensed police officers are required to have a minimum of a two-year college degree.
The GOP plan would provide $20 million in scholarships for associate degrees for those pursuing a career in law enforcement; another bill would set aside $2.5 million in tuition reimbursement for recently licensed police officers, as well as $20 million for hiring bonuses for police officers who remain on the job for at least a year.
“By advertising the value and need of being a police officer, the rewarding career it can be and the wonderful and hard work that they do every day, we can do our part to combat the harmful things the liberals are saying out there,” said state Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, who is sponsoring legislation to create a statewide marketing program. Housley’s bill would give the Department of Public Safety $1 million for the marketing effort.
House DFL lawmakers said they plan to unveil their proposal in the coming days.
“Democrats in the Minnesota House understand that police recruitment and retention is a challenge for many communities right now,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley said in a statement. “We welcome collaboration with Senate Republicans to find areas of agreement.”
With a surge in violent crime in the Twin Cities, local elected officials and police departments are struggling to stem the tide of carjackings and gun violence.
The Minneapolis Police Department is down hundreds of police officers, many of whom are retiring or on disability leave citing post-traumatic stress disorder from responding to the civil unrest and riots sparked by the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has said starting salaries for a Minneapolis police officer should be higher to attract and retain cops who might decamp for other cities that may pay higher wages.
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