Public safety bill passed by legislature

Minnesota lawmakers passed an $880 million public safety spending package this week that includes new funding and policy changes.

“It’s not only making sure we are funding our enforcement efforts, but we are also funding and working on our prevention,” Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson said.

It’s the first budget session for Commissioner Jacobson, who applied for the position back in the winter and was selected by Gov. Tim Walz.

The 33-year veteran of law enforcement came out of retirement to lead the department.

“I think for us to be able to thrive as a community, to battle crime, to be able to create safer communities, we have to engage with communities,” Jacobson said. “We have to gain trust. If we don’t have trust, everything else falls apart.”

Part of the new state funding will allow the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to hire more staff for its crime lab, with a goal to improve processing time for evidence to less than 90 days.

In early April, according to KSTP-TV, the BCA had 563 sexual assault kits either in the testing process or waiting in the queue.

“We’ve heard a lot about our inability to get crime lab results fairly quickly,” Jacobson said. “We have crime victims waiting for those results, we have people accused of crimes waiting for those results, and they’ve had to wait too long.”

The new funding includes grant opportunities for communities that could be used to focus on youth intervention and crime intervention efforts.

“Communities need resources when it comes to grant programs to help fund programming that might help kids, youth and families to better thrive,” Jacobson said.

One of Jacobson’s top goals in office remains to uplift the public safety profession.

“I want people who are in this business to feel good about what they do, to feel good about who they serve to know they are supported,” Jacobson said. “To build upon that to engage with the community, everything that we do to be a success has to be done together.”

Lawmakers continue debate on a tax omnibus bill that includes funding that could give communities resources for officer recruiting and retention.