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Law Enforcement Is On Trial at the State Capitol

By Mary Lahammer

As law enforcement stands at the ready outside the trial of a white officer charged with the murder of a Black man in Minnesota, lawmakers at the State Capitol are trying to tackle a variety of issues around policing.

Officer Arik Matson, a police officer who nearly lost his life in line of duty, and his wife, Megan, told a Senate committee how he has had to relearn how to do basic things like walk. They shared their story at a time when lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are looking to increase penalties for attempted first-degree murder of authorities.

Through tears in a remote hearing, Sen. Karla Bigham (DFL-Cottage Grove) said, “I’m inspired by your wife." She added that this bill sets an example that, if something awful like attempted murder happens, "there’s justice.”

Republican Senator John Jasinski is the chief author of bill, and he represents Waseca Police Officer Matson. "I’ve always been a law enforcement guy, going back to my mayor days, anything to give police tools to keep us safe is what we need to do," Sen. Jasinski said.

Law enforcement knows this is a difficult time for the public and their profession. Brian Peters from the Minnesota Police & Peace Officers Association acknowledges, “We are in a crossroads in policing, we're seeing more violence against police every day.”

While Senators came together on a bill aimed at protecting police, they remain divided on a bill funding public safety in case more public protest turns into civil unrest in the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with the murder of George Floyd. Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Minneapolis) urged lawmakers, “Please do not use the trauma and the painful, painful moment my city is reliving right now and that many of you are using for political gain."

Sen. Omar Fatey (DFL-Minneapolis) added, "It is even more harmful and insulting and incendiary for us to pass a police funding bill on the first day of a trial about police brutality and murder."

The bill has $20 million so other communities can come to the aid of any city needing assistance, including Minneapolis. Republicans say Gov. Walz is the one who asked for the funds in preparation for the trial inside the heavily guarded and covered Hennepin County Government center. Bill author, Sen. Bill Weber (R-Luverne) concluded, “We know what precipitated it. No one agrees or condones what happened, things could have been done to keep the aftermath to what it was."

As the trial of Derek Chauvin begins on March 8, 2021, communities of culture are going to experience that burning, suffocating feeling of trauma all over again. In the first episode of the weekly series, Trial & Tribulation: Racism and Justice in Minnesota, we talked to trauma expert, therapist and author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, Resmaa Menakem about how people can cope right here, right now, as the trial stirs up old and new wounds.

Data Reporter Kyeland Jackson left Louisville, Ky., Minnesota shortly after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police. In “Tethered: How Race and Policing Binds Minneapolis to Louisville,” he hones in on the racism-fueled policing disparities that led to both Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s deaths.

In some measures, the “Star of the North” is failing communities of color. Rates of inequity in Minnesota fall below national standards and show how historical divides have created ongoing consequences for people with darker skin. When you examine the data, how does Minnesota compare to the rest of the nation when it comes to racial equity?

Mary Lahammer Read More
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