Feb 4, 2021 - News
Minneapolis' security plan for Derek Chauvin trial sparks fiscal fight
Photo illustration of Derek Chauvin behind a brick wall made of hundred-dollar bills.
Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Ramsey County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

Security plans for next month's trial of former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin are starting to take shape, as lawmakers bicker over who should foot the bill.

Why it matters: Leaders say a robust law enforcement presence is needed in downtown Minneapolis to protect public safety and private property, but it could also have a big impact on the area's pandemic recovery.

  • "This comes just at the time that we're working hard to gear back up, to reanimate our economy," Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said. "It's an uncertain time. But the best response, as everyone has said, is total preparation."

What's happening: State and local law enforcement officials plan to beef up their presence before and after the March 8 trial as they hope to avoid a repeat of the unrest that followed George Floyd's killing.

  • Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said Wednesday that he's working with local law enforcement chiefs across the state, as well as the FBI and its Joint Terrorism Task Force, "to prevent crime and to prevent disorder."
  • The response will likely involve the National Guard and hundreds of officers from agencies across the state.

Driving the news: Gov. Tim Walz wants the Legislature to approve a $35 million fund that local governments can tap to help pay for emergency and security costs, including those related to the trial.

  • Some of that cash would reimburse departments from outside the metro who deploy officers to Minneapolis.

The other side: Legislative Republicans have expressed reservations about asking the rest of the state to help Minneapolis. Some question whether the money will actually make a difference.

  • "We are not going to bail out Minneapolis city council after they have made cuts to the public safety budget," said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake).

By the numbers: Minnesota spent $24 million more than usual to respond to civil unrest in 2020, per the Star Tribune.

  • For context, Baltimore spent about $7.4 million during the 2016 trial of the officers charged and acquitted in the death of Freddie Gray.

What we're hearing: Without a clear plan in place, business and property owners downtown are grappling with how to proceed with security of their own.

  • Property managers told us they have two schools of thought: One is to not take any chances and board up their storefronts right away, while the other is to hold off as long as possible to make downtown look welcoming.
  • Talk of building a perimeter well beyond the Hennepin County Government Center also has property managers wondering where demonstrators will congregate.

Of note: Recent comments from local law enforcement leaders have raised questions about whether the state and Minneapolis can recruit enough officers to help — even if the money for reimbursements comes through.

  • Harrington added that while he's "still short" on officers committed, he is confident he will have enough reinforcements in place by March.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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