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Washington, D.C. – Representative Tom Emmer (MN-06) authored an opinion piece, that was recently published in the Delano Herald Journal, entitled “Supporting our law enforcement” following his recent roundtable discussion with Sixth District law enforcement officials during National Police Week.

Read Congressman Emmer’s piece below or by clicking here.

“National Police Week is celebrated every year in May. While we have this dedicated week for our men and women in blue, each day is an opportunity to address the challenges law enforcement face and where gaps can be filled.

We recently invited every sheriff and police chief in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District for a roundtable chat at the Wright County Law Enforcement Center. A dozen members of law enforcement attended, from Ramsey to Chaska, from St. Cloud to Howard Lake, and shared what’s working, what isn’t, and their ideas for solutions.

For me and our staff, it was an opportunity to listen and devise a plan of legislative action.

Illegal immigration, and its side effects, were a main topic of discussion. As a result of President Biden’s handling of the border, millions of illegal immigrants have entered our country, along with thousands of pounds of fentanyl. The Drug Enforcement Administration took more than 2.5 million lethal doses of fentanyl off Minnesota streets in 2023 alone.

Wright County Sheriff Sean Deringer has seen the effects of the Biden border crisis firsthand. The sheriff described fentanyl overdoses as “off-the-charts,” and mentioned that their county medical examiner has weekly cases which involve either accidental overdoses or suicide overdoses.

In 2022, nearly all of our state’s synthetic opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl.
When I asked the panel where the fentanyl was coming from, St. Cloud Chief of Police Jeff Oxton responded, “It’s all coming from Mexico.”

Cities like St. Cloud are becoming border cities despite being over 1,500 miles away from the Texas-Mexico border.

Closing the border and enforcing our laws is step one. At the same time, we can enact legislation like the HALT Fentanyl Act, nonpartisan legislation that passed the US House of Representatives more than a year ago, to permanently make fentanyl a Schedule I drug, giving law enforcement more tools to keep this deadly drug off the streets. Unfortunately, the Senate is refusing to pass this bill.

During our conversation, Sheriff Deringer also spoke about the rise in retail crime, theft, and fraud related to the influx of illegal immigration. He said, “the uncooperative spirit of those that we are arresting, it’s like they’re being coached, they’re being manipulated, they’re being taught the ins and the outs of the criminal element.” These are the real consequences of the border crisis.

Peace officers are also continuing to deal with the harmful “defund the police” movement, targeted attacks, and staffing shortages. The demanding nature of the job, combined with increased public hostility, makes it difficult to attract and retain talented individuals.

In 2023, it was reported that more than half of Minnesota police departments were facing staffing shortages. To make matters worse, police departments in the same region are often competing to fill open positions.

Attendees at the roundtable highlighted numerous policy ideas that could be implemented locally, statewide, or federally to attract the next generation of law enforcement. Policies that could protect themselves on the street, enhance their well-being, and support their families.

Take the success of the Community OutPost (COP House) in St. Cloud, for example. The COP House is run by the St. Cloud Police Department and connects local officers with kids and families through community service events and extracurricular activities.

Fostering relationships between law enforcement and families helps reduce division and create a welcoming, safer community. We are proud to work with local partners to champion this program at the federal level.

Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott brought up the importance of supporting funding for internal wellness programs for law enforcement. I couldn’t agree more.

The stress and psychological impact of seeing so many fellow officers being attacked and killed has a lasting impact on our peace officers. Studies have shown that law enforcement officers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression at levels twice as high as the average person.

That’s why I am leading an effort in Congress to fund the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act Program. This nonpartisan program created in 2018 provides resources and grants for law enforcement agencies to develop internal mental health and peer monitoring programs, tools for suicide prevention, as well as support and resources for officer’s families.

In 2023, this program provided more than $9 million in grants for local law enforcement agencies across the country, including a grant for the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.

By having an open dialogue of ideas, more solutions like this will come to the surface. Our law enforcement officers deserve our unwavering support, respect, and appreciation for the work they do, and I won’t stop advocating for them in Congress.”