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State can’t afford not to be ready

Minnesota is facing a potential powderkeg next month when the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin starts. Chauvin is charged in the death of George Floyd, the incident that sparked nationwide rage over perceived police brutality against Blacks. Chauvin knelt on the neck of a handcuffed Floyd for nearly eight minutes, after which Floyd died.

Minneapolis was racked by demonstrations that quickly turned to riots. Minneapolis police were overwhelmed, until the Minnesota National Guard was belatedly called out. The trial of Chauvin will draw the same kind of attention, especially if Chauvin were to be acquitted.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wants the state to be prepared ahead of time to prevent any violence. He is proposing the Legislature approve a $35 million fund to reimburse other police and sheriff’s departments who come to assist Minneapolis police, if the need arises. It sounds like a simple and effective plan.

But nothing is simple where the Minnesota Legislature is concerned. Senate Republicans have their own plan to reimburse other departments that come to Minneapolis’ aid. They would withhold Minneapolis’ Local Government Aid to pay off the other departments. They claim Minneapolis has made poor budgeting decisions with regard to its police, and hasn’t repaid other departments from last May’s rioting.

It would seem the Republicans want to punish Minneapolis City Council members for their declaration that they would end the Minneapolis Police Department, and for lowering its funding at a time when the MPD is losing officers to retirement and resignations.

However the state decides to fund it, it should make sure that there will be ample law enforcement support if the Chauvin trial does produce violent demonstrations. The cost of not being ready will be much, much higher than $35 million in property damage and personal injury.

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