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Minnesota committee advances trio of bills on public safety

(The Center Square) – Minnesota would spend millions of dollars on public safety innovation under a bill that passed out of committee.

The bill, HF 855, is one of three that Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, authored that the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee advanced Tuesday. The bills are meant to enhance public safety boards and reduce violent crime.

Under HF 855, a 15-member Public Safety Innovation Board would increase the efficiency and capacity of public safety providers through reviewing research on criminal justice and public safety, educating government officials, and awarding grants. The Commissioner of Public Safety would use $4.85 million from the general fund in fiscal year 2024 to hire staff in the Office of Justice Programs, simplify grant procedures and help more people apply for grants.

The Commissioner would use $55 million for local community innovation grants, under the direction of the Public Safety Innovation Board. The base for the appropriation for fiscal years 2025 and beyond would be $30 million.

Half of the grant funding would go to local government applicants that had the 20 highest per capita crime rates in the previous fiscal year based on the Uniform Crime Reports or National Incident Based Reporting System. The other half would go to local governments that had the 20 fastest increases in the per capita rate of crime in the previous fiscal year, based on those reporting systems.

Under the bill, grant recipients must spend or encumber the funding within six years on programs that pertain to reentry, victim services, homelessness assistance, mobile crisis teams and embedded social worker, restorative justice, co-responder, juvenile diversion, community violence interruption, blight elimination or technical assistance to service providers who work to promote public safety. Grant recipients would complete uniform evaluation programs every two years. The grants couldn’t be used for law enforcement agencies’ activities.

Fifteen million dollars in fiscal year 2024 would support crime prevention programs to provide public safety to victims. Governments could use these funds to increase recruitment of officers through advertisements, bonuses or scholarships for peace officers who haven’t been subject to disciplinary action in the past year of their continuous employment. They could also use the money to ensure retention of detective investigating homicides and nonfatal shootings or help victims and family members of homicide or shooting victims.

The office would spend $10 million on co-responder programs and $10 million on organizations selected by the Opiate Epidemic Response Advisory Council. The bill also sets up a cloud-based body camera data storage program and a task force to increase peace officer recruitment, diversity and education. With $2.5 million, the state would reimburse postsecondary schools that provide in-service training programs for peace officers on the proper use of force and conflict de-escalation.

The committee also advanced a bill, HF 538, to authorize the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to revoke or suspend a peace officer’s license for affiliation with a criminal gang, hate group or extremist group. The third bill, HF 25, would spend $280 million on violent crime reductions. That includes $25 million in fiscal year 2023 to improve responses to mental health crisis situations and $30 million annually for community violence prevention and intervention grants that provide direct services to community members to reduce or prevent crime or violence.

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