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Minneapolis struggles to recruit police officers

Plus: St. Paul’s efforts to provide newborns with college savings accounts stymied by state law; intense wildfire season expected in Minnesota; U of M Rocket Team wins international competition; and more.

Libor Jany writes in the Star Tribune: “In many respects, Royce Fields resembled the ideal recruit for the Minneapolis Police Department: Black, college-educated, with an unshakable desire to serve his community. But after making it through rounds of interviews several years ago, the Army veteran tired of waiting to hear back from the department and decided to move on. … With its future hanging in the balance, the MPD is wishing there were more Royce Fields around as it struggles to recruit the next generation of police officers, men and women it hopes will be more problem-solvers than enforcers. … There are plenty of vacancies to fill in Minneapolis. Despite the graduation last month of 19 recruits, the department is still down more than 200 officers — nearly one-quarter of its authorized strength last year of 889.”

Josh Verges writes in the Pioneer Press: “St. Paul’s efforts to provide newborns with college savings accounts are being hampered by a century-old state law that keeps birth records private if the mother is unmarried. College Bound St. Paul enrolled only about 70 percent of the city’s newborns in 2020, the program’s inaugural year. They signed up nearly all newborns from legally married parents but only about 20 percent of those born to single moms. State Rep. Dave Pinto, DFL-St. Paul, said the antiquated statute is making it hard to reach families who could benefit the most. … Pinto sponsored legislation that would have added the program to the list of government agencies that get special access to confidential birth records. It passed the Minnesota House with DFL support but failed in the Senate and was not included in compromise legislation.”

Greg Stanley writes in the Star Tribune: “Kindling is piling up on the forest floor. Beetles, pests and diseases that have been attacking Minnesota’s core tree species over the past several years have turned entire stands into the ready-made fuel of fallen branches and dead trunks. Now a hot and dry spring, with more abnormally dry weather expected well into summer, has foresters bracing for what could be a brutal wildfire season. And they’re worried about the impact a prolonged drought will have on Minnesota’s trees.”

At KARE 11, Danny Spewak reports: “Now that a judge sentenced him to 22.5 years in prison on a state murder conviction, former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin can appeal, as many defendants often do. But he may never reach that point, according to multiple legal experts who spoke with KARE 11 on Friday. It all depends on what happens with Chauvin’s looming federal case, which separately accuses him of violating Floyd’s civil rights (and another teenager’s in 2017). … Bryant and other legal experts told KARE 11 that a federal plea bargain might include an agreement by Chauvin not to appeal his state conviction.”

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Also from KARE 11: “Police are investigating after a Friday drive-by shooting seriously injured two people in St. Cloud at the Reach Up Park.  According to St. Cloud police, the shooting happened near 10th Avenue Southeast and 11th Street Southeast, when a suspect’s vehicle approached the park along 10th Avenue Southeast and fired multiple rounds toward the victims. Police say two 17-year-old males were struck by gunfire, suffering one gunshot wound each, before being rushed off to St. Cloud Hospital in ‘serious condition.’”

MPR reports: “The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to review the 2013 fatal police shooting of Terrance Franklin in Minneapolis. Franklin was wanted for questioning in a burglary case in May 2013 when Minneapolis police officers chased him through a south Minneapolis neighborhood before cornering him in the basement of a home. Officers shot and killed him. Police said Franklin grabbed one of the officers’ guns and wounded two of the officers during a struggle. But a lawsuit filed by Franklin’s family in 2014 — and settled with a $795,000 payout by the city in February 2020 — alleged that Franklin, 22, was trying to surrender at the time police shot him.

Ginna Roe reports for KSTP-TV: “Shattering the competition to bring home a first-place trophy, the University of Minnesota Rocket Team is now the reigning worldwide champion of the 2021 Spaceport America Cup. The one-of-kind competition invites student engineers from all around the globe to launch their student-built rockets in the New Mexico desert. This year, the U of M Rocket Team won it all. … They researched and built a 12-foot rocket that is 6 inches in diameter and weighs 123 pounds. The team was evaluated based on their technical reports and a 15-minute video presentation.”