The Association of Minnesota Counties has raised a ruckus with a proposal to do away with half of all State Patrol troopers as an efficiency move, turning over their routine highway patrols to local law enforcement as a stet budget-cutting fix. But Jim Mulder, the organization's executive director, says the move doesn't have to mean Minnesota's roads would be any less safe.
Here's what AMC has outlined as part of a 10-point proposal it's presenting to the Legislature: "Reduce the size of the state highway patrol by 50% and redeploy the patrol to provide accident reconstruction services, investigation of major crimes and management of state weight standards." (The full proposal is below the jump.)
Why? AMC's belief is that there needs to be an examination of possible overlap and inefficiencies built into law enforcement duties around the state. Routine patrol work handled by the State Patrol should be handled by local law enforcement agencies, he said.
"We want the patrol on investigations in rural counties. That's where we need the help," Mulder said today, while praising DPS's work. "We want to start a conversation. We want to see if there's a better way to do it."
Touted as a bold way to save the state about $450 million a year -- including about $75 million through the proposed trooper reduction -- the 10-point proposal was unveiled in late February and quickly drew fire from officials in Beltrami, Washington, Houston and Pierce counties. KSTP picked up the State Patrol angle on the story yesterday. And it got the attention of the State Patrol, where spokesman Lt. Eric Roeske said today that AMC "didn't do its homework," and the proposal won't help save lives.
State Patrol already works tightly and efficiently with local law enforcement agencies, he said, pointing to a significant drop in DUI deaths around the state as an example of that collaboration.
"It's like taking two players off a football team and telling the other nine to make up the difference," Roeske said. "It doesn't make sense."
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek agreed, telling KSTP the force reduction would mean less overall patrols, and maybe more crashes.
But KSTP also spoke with Carver County Commissioner Randy Maluchnik, who described periods when county deputies and State Patrol troopers were patrolling the same stretches of highway on the same day. He supports AMC's proposal.
For his part, Mulder said he understands the proposal is controversial.
AMC is an organization representing the state's 87 counties. Here are its 10 proposals for what it calls Redesign Minnesota:
- Reduce the size of the state highway patrol by 50% and redeploy the patrol to provide accident reconstruction services, investigation of major crimes and management of state weight standards.
- Have counties take over the responsibility state highways except for the freeways.
- Eliminate County Program Aid and certain other funding for counties, then enact a .5% (half‐percent) County Sales Tax for all 87 counties, but counties would have an "opt‐out" option on this tax.
- Adopt a statewide Community Corrections/Probation Services program.
- Adopt Minnesota court reform to: Allow judicial reciprocity for arraignments and other early court proceedings; Expand court jurisdiction to prosecute crimes and allow for multiple prosecutions involving the same defendant; Establish a county magistrate/hearing officer system to adjudicate certain civil and minor offenses in each county; Allow all persons facing criminal sanctions equal access to diversion programs implemented at the county level; Allow and expand the use of interactive televideo technology in court proceedings whenever possible; Give counties the discretionary authority to provide attorneys and make guardian ad litem appointments in CHIPS cases.
- Based upon the results from existing Chemical Dependency (CD) Response pilot programs, counties would be allowed to begin CD redesign if they so choose.
- Adopt a uniform statewide planning and zoning law that combines the best portions of city/town planning and zoning statutes and county planning and zoning statutes.
- Suspend all county maintenance of efforts for three years, place a moratorium on new state mandates and enact a five‐year sunset review on all existing mandates.
- Place a five‐year moratorium on the implementation of new state rules or commissioner orders unless they are subject to federal rulemaking or necessary to conform to federal law.
- Allow a new, expedited process for counties to adopt Home Rule Charters at the discretion of each county.