Minnesota law enforcement leaders applauded the tranquillity of Monday's early demonstrations at the start of the closely watched trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, while state legislators continued to clash over police funding proposals at the Capitol.
Roughly 1,000 people assembled without incident Monday near the Hennepin County Government Center fenced off with razor wire — the most visceral symbol of the anxieties accompanying the first trial connected to last year's killing of George Floyd.
During the first in a series of weekly briefings by a joint law enforcement response dubbed "Operation Safety Net," Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the police and National Guard presence around the government center would increase and peak when a jury nears its verdict in the case.
More than 100 National Guard soldiers have been deployed to the site of the trial, and a dozen police agencies from around the state are available should a repeat of last year's civil unrest ensue.
"We recognized lessons learned from last year — and we tried to balance that — but our first concern is the safety of people here in the city," Arradondo said. "For some, seeing a lot of our folks in this uniform can be traumatic and we've taken that into account."
Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Monday his agency has still found "no credible imminent threats" to the area in connection with the trial. His agency is working with the FBI and coordinating with local faith and community leaders.
Monday's trial proceedings began as the Legislature remains at odds over a bill to help cover the costs of law enforcement agencies that pitch in during emergencies in other areas, including those that help the Twin Cities during the trial. The GOP-controlled Senate passed their latest version of the bill by a vote of 35-32, but the measure did not sway Democrats.
"If we were to pass legislation that would meaningfully change our system of policing … we would be doing much more to keep the peace in Minneapolis than all of the law enforcement presence that Minnesota taxpayer money can buy," Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, said.
But Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said the legislation acknowledges the need for people to feel safe and that "the vast majority know that it comes through good men and women that are police officers helping to keep the streets safe."
The Senate GOP bill would allocate $20 million, and the fund would expire in 2023. It does not include police accountability measures House Democrats proposed. It would delay the start of new guidelines for when officers can use deadly force, pushing them back from March to September, as GOP legislators said more time is needed for training. The Senate version also retroactively disqualifies communities from getting state disaster aid for damage caused by civil disorder.
Gazelka and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said they are continuing to negotiate a deal, but it was not clear Monday when the House would take up the bill again. The House's last attempt to pass a measure failed, with Republicans and a number of Democrats voting against it.
Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755
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