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Senate GOP pitch $65 million law enforcement recruiting package

(The Center Square) – Minnesota Senate Republicans pitched a 2022 “top priority” $65 million law enforcement recruiting package Wednesday.

The proposals – dubbed the “Creating Opportunities in Public Safety” (C.O.P.S) program – would incentivize law enforcement recruitment statewide to address a police officer shortage, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said in a news conference. 

“Across the state, we’ve been hearing from law enforcement agencies that are struggling with staff,” Miller said. “Law Enforcement officers are leaving the force in far higher numbers than they are applying to join the force and it’s hitting a critical stage for their ability to provide for safe communities,” “This isn’t an accident. These losses are a direct result of the ‘Defund the Police’ and anti-police rhetoric, that has demonized police officers and left them personally demoralized and their agencies diminished in size and standing.”

Republicans said the six bills in line to be printed would help young people get their degree in law enforcement and lower barrier to entry costs via:

  • $40 million to fund scholarships, tuition reimbursements, or grants to help Minnesotans become police officers. The grant would be $1,500 per year for up to 2 years for eligible recipients.
  • $20 million to fund bonuses of up to $10,000 for newly hired peace officers statewide, only awarded for newly-licensed peace officers after a year of service.
  • $2.5 million in tuition reimbursements for recently licensed peace officers and those becoming officers.
  • $1 million to fund a Department of Public Safety advertising campaign to elevate the law enforcement profession.
  • $1.5 million to the Pathways to Policing program that supports non-traditional candidates for law enforcement who already have an associate degree in another discipline by reimbursing agencies up to 50% of education costs.

Republicans claimed law enforcement nationwide is struggling to replace retiring or resigning officers. The Star Tribune reported that 32 Minnesotan Police Chiefs retired in 2021. Meanwhile, the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board Job board show openings for licensed peace officers in at least 65 agencies. Minneapolis and St. Paul have nearly 300 open positions to fill as of last month.

“The bills we’re offering today are just one part of a comprehensive effort to support safer communities,” Miller said. “We’ll be offering additional materials on retaining our current peace officers pool, addressing gaps in crime statutes, and what we can do to better hold those criminals accountable when they violate those statutes.”

Miller said the Senate plans to vote on public safety proposals focusing on officer recruitment and retention “as quickly as possible” but that they need the support of the DFL party.

House DFL lawmakers have pitched a $100 million public safety plan that would provide:

  • $40 million to reduce community violence via juvenile diversion efforts, community violence interruption, and restorative justice programs.
  • $22 million to local community policing grants.
  • $22 million for crime investigation units.
  • $10 million toward opiate abuse and addiction prevention.

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