Minnesota must prioritize public safety at every level of government to address the crime plaguing our communities. Recently, we witnessed a positive development as Minneapolis leadership agreed to a meaningful increase to the police budget, nearly returning it to the level before the substantial cuts of 2020.
While still not enough, it marks a milestone: 20 months after sparking a nationwide movement to defund police, the City Council accepted the reality that communities need police and police need to be funded.
That common-sense conclusion is obvious to most, yet it eludes many on the far left. Sadly, Attorney General Keith Ellison is among them. Ellison has played a leading role in the "defund the police" movement, including advocating for the Minneapolis ballot initiative that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department and removed the requirement to maintain a minimum number of officers.
Since dramatically losing that vote, Ellison hasn't changed his views — he subsequently called the goals of the ballot initiative a "good idea."
Ellison's leadership of the defund-police movement, combined with his history of anti-safety policies and hostility toward police, led me to run for Minnesota attorney general.
My belief is simple: Minnesota needs leaders who take a responsible approach to public safety.
We have seen the results of an irresponsible approach. In Minneapolis, homicides are 86% higher than the 10-year average, up 114% from 2019, and we ended 2021 matching the previous record of 97 homicides in a single year.
Likewise, by the end of December 2021, Minneapolis experienced 640 carjackings, an increase of over 60% from the 2020 number.
There are long-term economic implications to the rise in criminality. Businesses see the crime and ask whether they should stay in Minnesota or come to Minnesota in the first place. The questions are amplified when policies like defunding the police are seriously advocated by our elected officials. Businesses repeatedly bring up crime as the single most significant impairment to their long-term prospects in the state.
But the deepest problem with the anti-safety policies of Ellison is not economic. It is moral. It is deeply wrong that Minnesotans, particularly the least fortunate among us, must live with the current level of criminality. Families should not have to worry whether they will be carjacked on their way to school or if stray bullets will take the lives of their children at football practice. Yet Ellison, guided by the ideology of extremists, wants to eliminate the police force protecting Minnesota residents.
A police force is the central defense available to people living in troubled communities. While public officials may enjoy taxpayer-funded private security, average citizens rely on police to ensure their loved ones are not robbed or raped, to end the drug trade on their corners, to halt the gang conflict that sprays bullets through their windows and kills their sons and daughters. To propose taking police away from those most in need of protection is an outrage.
In his re-election campaign, Ellison will surely point to the successful prosecution of former officer Derek Chauvin. But while George Floyd's life was of infinite value, so were the lives of the Minneapolis children, and the dozens of other victims, who lost their lives to senseless violence last year. Ellison has failed to combat the extraordinary increase in violent crime, and that is unacceptable.
The chief responsibility of the AG's office is leadership. Right now that means prioritizing public safety, and marshaling the resources of that office to partner with local prosecutors, police and community stakeholders to coordinate a comprehensive response to end the violence.
Some might say the AG's office hasn't done that for some time. The proper response to this is outraged disbelief. Why shouldn't the AG's office focus on public safety in the face of record crime instead of focusing on defunding the police? Minnesota is crippled by crime, and the attorney general's office has extraordinary resources at its disposal that, if used appropriately, could make a dramatic impact.
A responsible attorney general's office would also communicate to police officers that their work is valued, that they are supported and that they are critical to Minnesota's future. That in itself would do much to end the exodus from the Minneapolis Police Department.
We need an attorney general who undertakes his duties soberly and responds to the needs of Minnesota communities. Keith Ellison has instead embraced rash and reckless policies. A renewal for Minnesota is possible, and it starts with a new attorney general.
Jim Schultz, of Minnetonka, is a Republican candidate for Minnesota attorney general.