Ahead of George Floyd trial, Minnesota officials clash over security measures

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Ahead of George Floyd trial, Minnesota officials clash over security measures

Minnesota officials are struggling to settle who will pay for security during the upcoming murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek

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Minnesota officials are struggling to settle who will pay for security during the upcoming murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. 

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday highlighted a proposed $35 million State Aid for Emergencies account that would be used to reimburse local governments for “unplanned or extraordinary public safety events.” The funding is aimed at helping law enforcement prepare for protests over the trial starting March 8.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin allegedly pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, despite his several shouts that he could not breathe, as seen during a caught-on-video arrest that sent shock waves throughout the nation.

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This undated handout photo provided by Christopher Harris shows George Floyd. (Christopher Harris via AP)

This undated handout photo provided by Christopher Harris shows George Floyd. (Christopher Harris via AP)

In January, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill cited concerns surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic in ruling that Chauvin would be tried separately from the three other officers who were charged in connection with the death. The remaining trio will face trial together over the summer.

The proceedings are expected to bring the city heightened attention and the potential for more unrest.

“If we’re not able to put this account in place, it hampers plans that have been being made for these trials for months,” Walz said at a Wednesday news conference. “This is an opportunity for Minnesota to put a face forward to the world to show that we can protect First Amendment rights and we can make sure that public safety is adhered to.”

In a subsequent tweet, Walz said the state “can and must be prepared to protect Minnesotans’ safety.”

But some rural Republicans have pushed back against the governor’s proposal, arguing that their communities should not have to “bail out” Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in a statement Wednesday that his caucus will introduce an alternative plan later this week that would reimburse law enforcement agencies for mutual aid “without taking general fund dollars away from education, health care, or transportation.”

“We are not going to bail out [the] Minneapolis city council after they have made cuts to the public safety budget,” he said. “Actions to defund the police have consequences.”

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office in Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, shows Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. 

This combination of photos provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, shows Derek Chauvin, from left, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. 
(Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

House Republicans echoed Gazelka’s statement at their own press conference, where they said the proposed fund does not address what they see as the increasing demonization of law enforcement.

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Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said the state is coordinating with the FBI and the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force, in addition to more than 200 chief law enforcement officers across the state, to prepare for next month’s trial. Harrington said the proposed fund would help reimburse law enforcement agencies from other parts of Minnesota, which he said are willing to send personnel but concerned about the extra costs.

The House public safety committee approved the proposal Tuesday, with an additional provision requiring law enforcement agencies to follow a model policy created by the state’s police licensing board for responding to protests. While Walz said he hopes the proposal can get approved by Monday to give agencies time to prepare, the bill does not yet have a companion in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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