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Commissioner Dohman outlines proposed Dayton's proposed public safety 'investments'

 Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman is at the Capitol today outlining some of Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposals, which he says will improve public safety.

Dohman's testimony before the House Transportation Committee, (and later the Senate Judiciary Committee) concerns improvements the governor wants to see passed. And, of course, funding of these programs is considered an "investment," not a cost. The governor's office says the proposals include:

  • Providing Body Armor to Protect Police Officers: reimburse law enforcement for 50 prent of their bullet-proof vests. The current budget is insufficient to cover all reimbursement requests. 
  • Improving School Safety: re-establish the Minnesota School Safety Center. The center will work closely with state agencies and the federal government to provide resources to schools statewide for emergency planning, training, and preparedness.
  • Improving Evidence Integrity and Forensic Analysis: funding for additional staff and equipment for Minnesota’s premier crime lab to ensure the integrity of evidence collection and forensic analysis. It will fund additional drug chemists and toxicologists to reduce turnaround time for forensic analysis at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).
  • Modernizing an Aging Criminal History System: replace the state’s aging criminal history system and crime reporting system. This measure will ensure crime trends in Minnesota are tracked more accurately and help hold criminals accountable for their crimes.
  • Reducing Turnaround Time on Vehicle Titles:  add seven staff members to enhance customer service for vehicle title issuance. His budget also implements new reforms to streamline the process. Right now, it takes 87 days to research and issue a vehicle title. This initiative would cut the wait time to just 30 days – a 200 percent improvement.
  • Increasing Funding for the Courts: provide $33 million in new funding for Minnesota’s court system. For nearly a decade, the courts have suffered repeated cuts resulting in staff reductions and a backlog of caseloads. This new investment will help maintain core justice operations and ensure justice is delivered fairly and swiftly.
  • Increasing Funding for Public Defenders: $8.6 million in new funding for public defense services. This new investment will help maintain existing public defenders, create more manageable caseloads for public defenders (bringing them closer to nationwide standards), and enhance services for minority communities. Right now, caseloads for public defenders in Minnesota are 150 percent higher than standards recommended by the American Bar Association.

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public safety

How to make Minnesota more safe: A story from personal experience. The Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services (administered under the Dept of Public Safety) was for many years a full-time director and just one other full-time staff person, an administrative assistant. Several years ago the AA position was reduced to 3/4 time, then to merely half time.

Due to many factors, the work of the 1.5 person staff was significantly behind (including the volume of work and increase in applications; the complexity and legal requirements of licensing; other 'projects' and duties required of the director; turnover in the AA position, reduction to half-time; state shutdown in 2011). In November 2012, the AA position was entirely eliminated. However, none of the duties of the staff were removed. As the half-time AA person for over a year, I believe it cannot all be done effectively (it wasn't with 1.5 people when I was there).

Will public safety be compromised? Will a tragedy have to occur before management or the legislature decide to more adequately fund this office? Time will tell.