Column: Dramatic revenue shifts will include policingRecently I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion concerning the redesign of Minnesota government specifically concerning the potential revamp of public safety and the current model of our criminal justice system. The discussion was hosted and filmed by representatives from Twin Cities Public Television and facilitated by Don Shelby.
By: Sheriff Scott McNurlin, The Republican Eagle
Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion concerning the redesign of Minnesota government specifically concerning the potential revamp of public safety and the current model of our criminal justice system. The discussion was hosted and filmed by representatives from Twin Cities Public Television and facilitated by Don Shelby.
I was one of seven participants from the field of criminal justice or public safety who answered questions posed by Shelby relative to how our current system works and whether we felt there was opportunity for improvement or change.
Shelby’s purpose for this line of questioning is founded in the “Redesigning MN” project and series produced by Twin Cities Public Television and supported by the Bush Foundation.
The producers of “Redesigning MN” state, “The project is designed to spark meaningful dialogue among Minnesotans about the dramatic shift in the state’s demographics and the impact it will have on state and local government, and ultimately, the lives of the people who live here.”
Experts working within the project believe Minnesotans will see a “tsunami” of retirees within our state over the next 20 years as a result of our aging baby boomer population.
Retired state Demographer Tom Gillaspy says this wave of retirees will translate directly into a drop in available operating revenue for the state because of their reduced or fixed taxable income creating an inability to sustain our current model of government. In the not too distant future, he predicts we will begin to experience $2 billion to $5 billion consecutive budget deficits not as a result of over spending but perhaps solely as a result of lost revenue, which will force us to contemplate a “new normal.”
So, how does this translate to policing?
As we continue to contemplate this dilemma, many forecast it will become necessary to “blur” the lines that separate state, county, and local forms of government to create fiscal efficiencies to sustain our ability to effectively deliver essential services, such as law enforcement. In theory, we reduce cost by eliminating layers of government either through consolidation or through a more regionalized approach to policing.
While arguably more fiscally efficient, these practices tend to create a larger bureaucracy to contend with as consumers vie for our services, and they also tend to create a potential loss in local control and the potential for less personal service. We will be left with perhaps trying to create a new model of policing that can possibly strike a balance between what is gained conversely to what is lost or perhaps communities may need to place a value on the importance of maintaining a more localized police identity while looking at cuts in other departments.
Still, if the predicted fiscal crisis should come to fruition, experts tell us state, county and local government officials will be pressed to make some difficult decisions concerning how we will be doing business.
Another viable solution is found in gained efficiencies through the expanded use of technology. This may seem like a simplistic solution to some of our problems, however many of the traditional paradigms that exist within our current criminal justice system do not allow for technological advancement because it could arguably challenge or impact our constitutional right to due process.
With that said, we have made advancements in this regard, such as the use of video arraignments and hearings. Much work still needs to be done through our courts and the Legislature to allow technology to play a more pivotal role in how we reduce costs within the criminal justice system at large.
The question remains: Are we up to the task?
I felt very fortunate to be asked to participate in Twin Cities Public Television’s “Redesigning MN” project. I found the discussion somewhat alarming but very enlightening as well. I’ve always believed as citizens we should stay out in front of topics such as this one, and I’m thankful for the folks at “Redesigning MN” for beginning the conversation.
For more information concerning this topic, please see the “Redesigning MN” website at www.redesigningmn.org or tune in for the documentary series titled “Margin of Safety” scheduled to air beginning at 8 p.m. Friday Aug. 17 on Twin Cities Public Television Channel 2.