The Minnesota Police & Peace Officers Association has endorsed DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton.

The association, which has 8,500 rank-and-file police officers, announced the backing Thursday after screening all announced candidates. Members endorsed Dayton unanimously.

"Selecting Mark was easy since he most closely represents our views and is committed to helping us perform our duties across the state," MPPOA president Marty Earley said in a release. "I am deeply honored to receive the endorsement of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, because I have such great respect for the heroic service of its members to protect the people of Minnesota," said Dayton, who was endorsed by the group in 2000 in his successful U.S. Senate bid.

Earley, a Bloomington police sergeant, praised Dayton's work in Washington D.C. to secure money for drug enforcement efforts and other crime programs.

"He clearly understands that communities are strapped for cash and that the state must do more to help keep police on the streets and active in crime fighting," Early said. "He will work to ensure that cities maintain the needed levels of police staffing to keep public safety their number one priority."