Rudimentary Vignettes: Public Safety

Current Events: Selective Justice

Ralph Yarl, 16, went to the wrong house to pick up his siblings. The man who lived there shot him once through the glass door, and again while he lay on the ground bleeding. Reports indicate that the white man who shot the Black teenager was taken to police headquarters to provide a statement but was released shortly after without charge. 

“You don’t shoot a child in the head because he rang your doorbell. The fact that the police said it was an ‘error’ is why America is the way it is,” Dr. Faith Spoonmore, Yarl’s aunt, told The Defender.

National community outcry led to the police changing their mind about making an arrest.

Freedom for Militia to Bear Arms v. Freedom of Speech

Republican leadership in Tennessee expelled two Black legislators who spoke up in public protest that gun control was not on the legislative agenda, even after local elementary school children were killed by an assault rifle.

As Vox reported: “The expulsions of Jones and Pearson marked a shocking silencing by Republicans of those who vocally disagreed with them on gun control, and a blatant suppression of opposition voices by members of the majority party.”

Mass Shootings

A story in The Guardian focuses on two young men impacted by violence in their community. One of them, Austin Eubanks — whose friend was killed in front of him at the Columbine High School tragedy in 1999 — died of an overdose 20 years later.

Hurt people often hurt other people:.Eubanks saw this in his own life. “I adversely affected hundreds of people through the course of my 20s by way of my addiction and the turmoil of my life,” he said. “Obviously, that ripple effect goes on and on and on.”

Eubanks talked about the dangers of numbness, about the impossibility of healing if we do not move through our grief. He saw a direct correlation between the rise in mass violence and the rise in addiction in the United States, where drug overdose deaths have jumped from around 20,000 a year in 1999 to more than 100,000 a year today, about five times as many deaths annually as the number of gun homicides.

Trauma, as Eubanks said, keeps rippling outwards, one kind of damage turning into another.

30 Deaths Per Year During Law Enforcement Encounters

According to Minnesota Reformer, a Minnesota Department of Health report found 177 fatalities occurred during law enforcement service calls and encounters from 2016 to 2021 — an average of 30 deaths per year. The analysis also found racial disparities: Though most encounters (109) involved white Minnesotans, Black people were about 4.5 times as likely as white people to be involved in a fatal encounter. American Indians were 5.7 times as likely.

Public Safety Legislation

The omnibus public safety finance and policy bill, HF2890, was first discussed by the House Public Safety Finance Policy committee in late March. Chair Kelly Moller (D–40A) opened up with a broad overview of the detailed bill.

“When we started this committee,” Moller said, “I said that one thing that was really important for us was the fact that people lacked confidence in our public safety system. When we don’t have a system that people trust, victims don’t report crimes, witnesses don’t come forward, people that are supposed to be held accountable aren’t, and we have a problem. We have a lot of work to do in this committee. We have done a lot of work to try to rebuild that trust in our system. And I truly believe that this bill does that in a transformational way.”

One of the long-standing requests included in the bill includes funding for crime victims. “This bill has substantial funding for victims,” Moller said. “We have over $70 million allocated to victims, including closing the federal gap that’s coming, [setting up] the missing and murdered Black women and girls office, sexual assault rape kit testing moving from counties to the state level. [HF2034 establishes a deadline of 90 days.]

“For law enforcement we have over $100 million allocated,” she continued. “We have got the violent crime reduction initiative with the [Bureau for Criminal Apprehension] BCA to help local communities with increase in violent crimes. We have a really important police recruitment bill that’s included in this and we’re caring about mental health of our first responders with the bill. We have a transformational funding to our probation and rehabilitation systems.”

The omnibus bill, Morrison said, also has provisions that would:

  • Support a state fraud unit to make sure that allocated funding is being used properly.
  • Set up a private detective board o make sure that people who are acting as private detectives are licensed
  • Support for violence prevention, addressing the fentanyl issue, combatting organized retail theft, and reducing carjacking
  • Addressing hate crimes, labor trafficking, and domestic violence
  • “Our juvenile system is broken and I think what we have in this bill is a great first step. There are other things that we can be doing.”
  • “A criminal background check, extreme risk protection orders, and some funding for gun violence research.”

John Walz, a House fiscal staff member, walked legislators through a spreadsheet. “For those of you who are not familiar with how some of these spreadsheets are laid out, each little box represents a small agency or, what we call, a program or an office within a larger agency. The top line will represent their base funding, then you will have additions to that funding that are proposed in the bill, and then the new total at the bottom of each box.”

  • Under the Sentencing Guidelines Commission, in addition to salary increases, health insurance increases, rent, and other small items  at each agency or program, is funding for a comprehensive review of sentencing guidelines.
  • Line 54, 55, and 57 includes roughly $4 million each year, for 2024 and 2025, for the cost of sexual assault exams and lab tests, as well as gun purchase background checks.
  • Line 109 and 110 sets up $1.248 million for establishing the Murdered and Missing African American Women’s Office, and $1.25 million for housing for domestic and sexual violence survivors.
  • Line 120 (HF600), 121, and 122 (HF1048) establishes $5 million to purchase and rehabilitate a treatment homes for the Ramsey County juvenile justice, an additional $1.25 million for ongoing grants to run those homes, and $7.5 million per year for youth intervention grants
  • Line 123 (HF25) would offer $3 million per year, increasing to $4.5 million in 2026, for community co-responder grants.
  • Line 125 (HF818) establishes $250,000 per year for violence research grants
  • Line 126 (HF1415) develops a first-responder mental health curriculum for $25,000, and line 127 (HF506) $100,000 for first-responder therapy in 2024
  • $1 million per year is allocated for additional staffing on behalf of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and $2.4 million for ongoing sex offender treatment

Ben Johnson, House legislative analyst, also pointed out bills in the omnibus legislation that would establish an Office of Restorative Practices (HF46), a Missing Persons Alert Program (HF55), and a reward fund for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. No-knock warrants would also be prohibited by law.

On April 12, the Public Safety Finance and Policy committee sent the bill for discussion to House Ways and Means. The related SF2909 is in the Senate.

Overall Appropriations 

The two biggest state agencies to be funded are the Department of Corrections at $1.58 billion and the Department of Public Safety at $574.7 million. 

Within corrections, the bill would appropriate: 

  • $1.1 billion for incarceration and pre-release services; 
  • $393.8 million for community supervision and post-release services; and 
  • $98.3 million for administration. 

Within public safety, the bill would appropriate: 

  • $196.1 million for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension; 
  • $160.3 million for the Office of Justice Programs; 
  • $144 million for emergency communications networks; 
  • $44.6 million for the Fire Marshall and Board of Firefighter Training; 
  • $17.5 million for Homeland Security and Emergency Management; and 
  • $7.3 million for Gambling and Alcohol Enforcement. 

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