MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Republican candidate for Minnesota governor Scott Jensen says a mass shooting at a St. Paul bar early Sunday morning shows the idea of defunding the police is "ridiculous."
A woman was killed and 14 people were injured when gunfire broke out at Seventh Street Truck Park just after midnight. Three suspects have been arrested and are being treated at area hospitals for injuries suffered in the shooting.
On Facebook, Jensen posted a video of Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher driving through the area of the shooting the night before it happened. Fletcher regularly livestreams patrols from his squad car.
"We never had any shots fired right here," Fletcher says while driving past Seventh Street Truck Park. "I hope we never do, but with this volume, at some point, it's gonna happen, right?"
"We need cops," Jensen wrote. "Sheriff Bob Fletcher predicted there would be a shooting at Truck Park in St Paul a night before it happens… we need to trust our police and give them all the resources to keep our cities safe. Any talk of defunding them is ridiculous!"
Fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Paul Gazelka echoed Jensen's comments in a video posted to Twitter.
"I don't have words for this. We've got to get our streets back," Gazelka said of the shooting. "We have to have more police on the streets, period. Minneapolis and St. Paul have got to get control of their streets. The city of Minneapolis has got to vote that they want more police, not less police."
In his 2022 budget address, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter announced his intent to launch an Office of Neighborhood Safety, but noted that does not mean the St. Paul Police Department will disappear.
"While this work alone won't realize all our neighborhood safety goals, we know there will continue to be some instances where there is simply no substitute for an officer," Carter said.
On the surface, Carter's proposed 2022 budget shows about $1.2 million less spending on the city's police department. However, the proposal notes that this is "due to shifting contract expenses from Police to other departments," including $4.6 million shifted to Emergency Management and about $455,000 to the City Attorney's Office.
"If not for these shifts, Police's total spending would grow 3.5% from the 2021 adopted budget to the 2022 proposed budget," the proposal notes.
The proposal would also use $1.7 million from American Rescue Plan funding to "to allow the Saint Paul Police Department to more easily fill vacant positions as officers retire," Carter said.
In Minneapolis, residents will vote in November on whether the city should replace its police department with a Department of Public Safety.
Calls for reduced funding to police departments across the country, and in some cases, abolition of police, have increased in the wake of George Floyd's murder and other high-profile police killings. Advocates for defunding say the money spent on police departments could be better spent on alternatives to policing.
Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition championing the replacement of the Minneapolis Police Department, says those alternatives would include mental health and addiction specialists to help people in crisis, de-escalation experts and social workers.
But the group says their proposal would still include armed police "to resolve violent or dangerous situations, to keep people safe."
Jensen was elected to the state Senate in 2016 and announced in 2019 he would not seek re-election.
Gazelka stepped down as senate majority leader last month before announcing his candidacy for governor.
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