Pawlenty, Rybak pledge to cooperateby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak are pledging to work together to fight crime in the state's largest city. The leaders emerged Friday afternoon from a closed-door meeting at the governor's mansion, saying they've set aside their recent disagreements. Their immediate goal is to get more police on the streets of Minneapolis before summer.
St. Paul, Minn. — The meeting of state of city officials came three days after Gov. Pawlenty suggested Minneapolis could do more to fight crime. He was reacting to the recent, high-profile shooting deaths of young men in two of the city's popular entertainment areas.
Pawlenty accused city leaders of "frittering away" money on a neighborhood revitalization program that could be better spent on public safety. City leaders and several DFL legislators took issue with the Republican governor. They blamed Pawlenty for cutting the state funding used to pay for police.
But after a 90-minute discussion with Mayor Rybak, Gov. Pawlenty said they've put their fiscal disagreements on hold.
"We agree that it's in the best interest of this discussion and the state to set those aside, and focus on how we can work together to better address this challenge for Minneapolis and Minnesota," said Pawlenty. "So we've moved the discussion to, where do we go from here, and how can we be constructive and good partners in mutually tackling this challenge."
Pawlenty says a short-term priority is to get more police officers on the streets, especially in downtown and high-crime neighborhoods. He says the state, city and county law enforcement agencies will work together on the goal of adding 10 to 15 beat cops.
"We envision the transit police to play a significant but not exclusive role in that. As you know, they have jurisdiction within a certain area of bus lines. There are a lot of bus lines in downtown and parts of Minneapolis, so that gives them a lot of jurisdiction," said Pawlenty. "They have part-time officers and the ability to hire more part-time officers. These are typically officers who are already working in other areas, who are sworn officers and are trained. So, they can come on and be available quite quickly and flexibly."
Standing alongside the governor, Mayor R.T. Rybak agreed that public safety in Minneapolis begins with more police officers on the streets. But he stressed the long-term solution is coming up with the money to replace recent cuts in state aid.
Rybak also wants Minneapolis police spending less time arresting the same criminals over and over. He says Interim Police Chief Tim Dolan went to Chicago to learn more about how that city deals with chronic offenders.
"Especially young offenders who have committed a crime, but we can win back and recruit back from gangs. Chicago is doing a better job on that. We need to do that," said Rybak. "For those who are willing to go in and out of a system and keep committing crimes, we need tough strong enforcement. Not only of police arresting, but the judicial system coming down hard."
Rybak says a long-term funding solution is still needed to keep sufficient policing levels. He also wants to make sure that the attention isn't all on downtown Minneapolis.
"The deepest issues we have on public safety are in our neighborhoods, especially in north Minneapolis," said Rybak. "Whatever plan we have, we'll be especially targeting ways that we can deploy more officers to the streets of north Minneapolis. Downtown is absolutely a challenge, but we want to make sure our priorities remain where they should be." Gov. Pawlenty says law enforcement officials will bring back a specific plan for deploying more officers in Minneapolis in the coming days.
He says his next steps include a meeting with leaders in the criminal justice system to discuss some of the long-term changes needed to keep Minneapolis and other Minnesota cities safe.
- All Things Considered, 04/07/2006, 5:19 p.m.