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The importance of public safety

This guest commentary is written by State Sen. Paul Utke.

Paul Utke
Paul Utke
Joel Maxwell
We are part of The Trust Project.

In recent weeks, Senate Republicans have passed a number of bills that focus on the issues legislators have been hearing about in their districts.

One concern I hear about frequently is public safety and supporting law enforcement. Folks in our northern communities see what’s going on in the Cities – a drastic increase in violent crimes coupled with anti-police rhetoric makes people who visit metro areas feel unsafe. The Cities used to be a vibrant place that folks would look forward to visiting when necessary, and now, it’s no longer a destination, but a place to avoid.

I’m proud to say we passed a comprehensive public safety bill that will stop this violent crime from bleeding further into greater Minnesota.

There are three main objectives of this bill: provide support for law enforcement recruitment and retention, toughen penalties for criminal activity, and increase transparency and accountability in judicial and prosecutorial actions.

Despite showing up to work every day and putting their lives on the line for doing so, law enforcement officers have been faced with a shocking amount of anti-police rhetoric throughout the past few years. This bill focuses on providing them support.

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First, we are creating an advertising campaign that elevates the law enforcement profession. Second, we are funding the award-winning Pathways to Policing Program, which supports non-traditional candidates for law enforcement.

We are also focusing on retaining the brave folks that have stayed in this honorable field of work. We are providing one-time bonuses to all licensed police officers, plus an additional incentive payment to officers considering retirement, so we can incentivize their continued service and they can train the next class of officers. These are the bravest members of our communities – they are the ones we call when we need help, and they show up without question. They deserve our gratitude and continued support.

We’re also cracking down on crime so we can keep violence from spreading further into our communities. Specifically, we’re increasing penalties for repeat offenders, carjackers and violent crimes involving firearms.

Additionally, our bill also provides much-needed support for the Violent Crime Enforcement Team. These folks target gun and drug crimes across the state, and are oftentimes put in the most dangerous situations, and they deserve support as they carry out this important work.

Our state has seen a shocking trend of violent criminals being re-released into our communities after committing crimes. That’s why we’re cracking down on repeat offenders and the judges that sentence them. Many prosecutors and judges go easy on criminals when it comes to sentencing, and that simply isn’t right – in fact, it’s emboldening criminals to continue their dangerous actions once released. Our bill sends a clear message: violent criminals shouldn’t be receiving light sentences, and judges need to be transparent in their sentencing process.

Our state finds itself at a tipping point. Police are feeling a great deal of stress when they show up to work every day. They are constantly worried that if they do what’s necessary to keep folks safe, they will receive public backlash for doing so. Yet they still do their best. They still come when called.

The real problem that needs to be addressed is the judges and prosecutors that go easy on sentencing, issuing lenient sentences to criminals when their crimes are more serious. Our bill adds transparency to the sentencing process and elevates law enforcement. The anger towards the police is terribly misguided, and the bottom line is that our police deserve our support, and their actions demand gratitude. Our bill strikes a balance between these two issues, while prioritizing the safety of all Minnesotans.

READ MORE OPINION:
Lee Hamilton is a senior advisor for the Indiana University Center on Representative Government, a nonpartisan educational institution that believes learning about Congress is central to responsible citizenship.

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