Police defunding likely to be statewide political issue

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A majority of Minneapolis City Council members say they favor an undefined plan to "defund" the city’s police department, but it’s clear defunding police will become a statewide issue in the 2020 campaigns.

"The fact is the people I’ve talked to in the suburbs and greater Minnesota are afraid of this creeping radicalism that the city council represents," Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jason Lewis said Tuesday. "They don’t want it coming to their cities. They don’t want to defund the police and they’re afraid if it starts here it might spread."

Lewis made his remarks while touring Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis and talking to business owners whose businesses were destroyed in riots last week. The city council members haven’t said exactly what they would like to happen to the Minneapolis Police Department, but he ridiculed one idea that would include mental health professionals responding to some calls instead of police.

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"When they say they’re going to defund or abolish it’s incumbent upon them to describe what they mean," Lewis said. "I have no idea except to take them at their word. Defund or abolish. If you have somebody breaking into your home what are you going to do? Call Dr. Phil?"

Ahmed Omara, the owner of the Olympic Cafe on Broadway that was destroyed by fire, didn’t want to wade too deeply into the "defunding" issue. However, he said he generally supports Minneapolis police who often eat at his three restaurants.

"Some police officers are bad, but most of them are very good," Omara told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. "Most of the police officers come here to the shop to eat. I like them."

Democrats outside Minneapolis are hesitant to embrace the idea of defunding police in Minneapolis. While touring damage along University Avenue in St. Paul on Monday, Gov. Tim Walz says Minnesotans need to wait and see what "defunding" police actually means.

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"I think there’s more complexity to explaining what that means because I think if they see it as there’s nobody on the streets and there’s nobody there," he said. "That’s not what they’re saying."

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent of Woodbury says defunding police is not likely to be an issue in suburbs and there’s not likely to be a bill regarding the issue in the legislature when a special session starts on Friday.

"It’s not our place to support or not support that," Kent said of police defunding in a video conference call previewing the special session. "That is a local issue and historically the legislature tends to stay out of that."