COMMUNICATIONS AND NEWS FROM THE WEEK: JANUARY 7TH, 2022
Meetings and Announcements:
• HAPPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL! I am looking forward to a productive year ahead and one that will allow us to meet in person sometime soon.
• The first meeting of the new year will be held next Monday, January 10th. The EDA will meet at 6:15 pm. Council meeting to start at 7 pm.
Article of Interest- with all of the car jackings and increase in serious crime, this is a timely article. The Mayor, Director Bierdeman and myself will be attending a meeting with the Mayors Association with Police Chiefs and County Attorneys on Monday. The purpose is to discuss possible legislation to increase prosecution for violent crimes.
Hennepin County police chiefs: More accountability needed from prosecutors
By Christina Saint Louis Star Tribune
January 6, 2022 — 5:59pm
The police chiefs of Hennepin County have openly expressed dissatisfaction with the county attorney's handling of criminal cases amid a violent crime surge.
In a letter to County Attorney Mike Freeman on Wednesday, the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association (HCCPA), which represents most departments in the county including Minneapolis, said police feel that people arrested for crimes are not being held accountable for their actions.
The association laid out recommendations its members believe would end the upward trend in violent crime, such as: The County Attorney's Office should prosecute people arrested for violent crimes; suspects arrested for violent crimes should be required to see a judge to set their bail, and the county should stop allowing suspects of violent crime "sign and release warrants," which don't require the suspect's arrest.
"Very consistently our officers and investigators arrest criminals only to receive notification that those arrested will not be charged with their crimes," wrote the HCCPA's president, Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering, in the letter. "There is an expectation that law enforcement will arrest criminals for their behavior. There must be the same expectation that those criminals be aggressively charged and prosecuted for their behavior as well."
The letter comes amid an increase in violent crime in Minneapolis and suburban cities alike. In Minneapolis, the city logged more than 650 gunshot victims — a 168% increase. In 2021, there were 97 homicides, according to a Star Tribune database, tying a record set in 1995, when the city had fewer residents. While some less serious crimes receded, robberies and carjackings skyrocketed last year, a problem that has spread to the suburbs.
Just last week, the statewide Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association also sent a letter to both Freeman and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi with a similar message of concern "that at a time of unprecedented increasing crime rates, prosecutorial policies are failing to hold criminals accountable for their actions."
The state association notified Freeman and Choi that it is seeking legislative authors to write a bill requiring county attorneys to provide data to the Legislature about felony-level offenses that go uncharged.
"My office's priority remains focused on supporting the victims of these crimes and the impact of these crimes on the safety of our neighborhoods," Freeman said in a statement Thursday. "We are charging and prosecuting both juveniles and adults to the fullest extent of the law. Our practice has always been to focus our limited resources on the most violent crimes first and that is what we are doing. ... We have been and will continue to work with our criminal justice partners to address the increased crime and to develop focused prevention strategies."
Choi said although he hadn't seen a copy of the bill described by the state association, he would support legislation meant to provide transparency around prosecutorial decisions. "A lot of these issues are really, really complex," he said. "I do think that what the chiefs are talking about — if I'm assuming their intent is to provide better education and understanding about the decisions and the things that happen in the justice system — [will] help the conversation get to a better place."
At the same time, Choi pushed back against the idea that County Attorney's Offices are unwilling to pursue charges. "If there's sufficient evidence to charge a case, we do. ... If there's a reason why we don't, I have been very transparent about it."
Among its recommendations to the county, the HCCPA also asked that the admission criteria for the Hennepin County Juvenile Detention Center be re-evaluated, citing that juveniles have contributed to the increase in violent crime.
"One of the criteria of the Juvenile Detention Center is that you can't bring an individual down who has stolen a car ... so we're trying to say, look, [juveniles] know this, at least in Hennepin County, they know that nothing is going to happen to them," Revering said in an interview. "So they're just continuing to reoffend."
In recent weeks, the county has assigned additional resources to prosecuting carjacking cases, the majority of which have involved juveniles. Freeman said last month that the charges in such cases are typically assault and aggravated robbery because carjackings involve force, often a firearm, to steal an occupied vehicle. Auto theft, however, is a nonviolent, low-level offense that involves an unoccupied vehicle.
The HCCPA recognizes that the Juvenile Detention Center's admission criteria isn't directly under Freeman's authority, Revering said, but included it in the letter to reflect the full scope of the associations recommendations. She said the same about bail reforms.
For its final recommendation, the HCCPA asked the County Attorney's Office to respect the work of law enforcement officers.
"We fully support the importance of holding law enforcement officers accountable when they do not perform as the community expects, including criminal charges when applicable," Revering wrote. "However, we also support recognizing when law enforcement is performed correctly and within the law and expect your office to do the same."
Revering is scheduled to meet with Freeman on behalf of the HCCPA next week, but she said Thursday that the exact date has yet to be determined.
Staff writer Kim Hyatt contributed to this report.
Update from the CAT (Covid Advisory Team) Sent to all employees on Tuesday, January 4th
NOTES FROM CAT MEETING 1-4-22
Our update this week includes a reminder of the COVID RAPID TESTING LINK for all employees. To date, a total of 102 people have utilized this service. We want to remind people that this service is open to employees and members of the employee’s household only.
We have also received several questions about our updated COVID policy and our PTO policy for unvaccinated employees. See below.
1. We have updated the COVID-19 quarantine policy for all staff. The following policy eliminates the need for a negative test after the 5th day. “People with COVID-19 should isolate for 5 days and if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), they can return to work but follow that by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others to minimize the risk of infecting people they encounter.”
2. Please note that employees who are not vaccinated are not allowed to work from home and will be required to take PTO while they quarantine and/or recover.
3. I would ask that those who are not vaccinated continue to wear masks when in public indoor spaces, especially with other employee present. I encourage all employees to wear a mask when in meetings and when in small rooms or 6 ft separation is not possible. This is one easy way to help stop the spread of Covid.
CAT UPDATE January 3rd, 2022
Active Cases within the City of Maplewood as of January 3, 2022 14
Active Cases within the City of Maplewood December 17, 2021 4
Percent of vaccinated employees as of January 3, 2022 78%
Percent of vaccinated employees as of December 17, 2021 69%
Goal to get to possible “herd immunity” 80%
Stay safe, Melinda
PARKS AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Snowshoe Stories from the Maplewood Nature Center
After their flight back home to Seattle Washington was cancelled on December 30, a family found their way to the Maplewood Nature Center. With a car load full of suitcases the weary travelers stopped into the building to use the restrooms. Lured by the excitement of the Parks and Natural Resources staff on what fun snowshoeing can be, they decided to rent snowshoes for an unexpected adventure. After an hour on the trails the family returned with stories of feeling reinvigorated by snowshoeing in the quiet calm of nature.
Another group that took advantage of the freshly fallen snow was the Concordia St. Paul Swimming and Diving team. The team ventured out to the Nature Center on January 5 for a snowshoe team building excursion. This was the first snowshoe experience for most and, for one of the swimmers from Egypt, this was the first “snow season” experience of her life!
Snowshoes are available at the Maplewood Nature Center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, $5 for a two-hour adventure.
Planning Grant for Community Resilience Application
Maplewood submitted an MPCA planning grant for community resilience. The grant program assists Minnesota communities in adapting community assets and services, ordinances, and public spaces for the effects of climate change. The Climate Energy and Mobility Resilient Maplewood plan is the critical and final piece needed in the City’s climate resilience planning, fulfilling the energy resilience-planning goal of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, and addressing a key implementation strategy of the City’s Climate Adaptation Plan.
The planning process will result in climate energy and mobility resilience strategic goals across multiple sectors with concrete short-, mid-, and long-term actions to advance climate energy and mobility resilience and capacity. An implementation plan will be developed including an identification of measurement metrics/tools for assessing effectiveness of strategies. The effort will also include the development of a step-by-step internal City guide supporting initiation of implementation. The guide will detail the creation of a climate-action implementation team, implementation strategies in the strategic plan, budget, and CIP, etc.
The City requested $32,480 of grant funds for consultant time with no matching funds required. There will be approximately 200 hours of staff time involved. Grants are awarded in the spring of 2022, with projects to be complete by June 30, 2023.
This week staff has been addressing staff shortages in some departments, especially Public Safety. Leadership has been busy preparing contingency plans in case of severe staff shortages due to illness. I will keep you posted if things change.
Stay warm this weekend and as always, please call if you have any questions related to this content, the Council packet or anything else.