Apr 25, 2024 | By: Matthew Freeman

Survey of MN Police Officers Shows Concerns, Beliefs Among Law Enforcement

In early February, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association sent out an anonymous electronic survey to all of their active-duty members to provide insights on the beliefs and concerns of public safety officers in Minnesota. Over 1,200 officers responded to this survey, with respondents being evenly divided geographically.

The results of the survey show beliefs and concerns expressed among public safety officers in Minnesota, with the first result showing that 98% of officers are somewhat, very, or extremely concerned about the recruitment rate in law enforcement.

“I’d say that’s a probably a fairly accurate account of what we are seeing here,” said Beltrami County Sheriff Jason Riggs in an interview with Lakeland News. “When I came to work for Beltrami County, I was one of 87 applicants. Today, we’re getting maybe three and we’ve probably interviewed two or three of them at one time or another.”

Another worry for Minnesota public safety officers is the risk of prosecution for on-duty actions, which 90% of officers said they were very or extremely concerned about. 69% of those voting said they extremely concerned.

“You take the actions of a few and you start making requirements and decisions based off of a few people’s mistakes or a few people’s actions that has a detrimental effect any way you go into any profession,” stated Sheriff Riggs. “And I think when you have that in the back of your mindset, as is if I get involved in something that I have to make a split-second decision on, that’s going to have a detrimental effect on either me going to prison and or losing my assets.” added Sheriff Riggs, “I think that weighs heavily on your first statistic of why people aren’t flocking to this job anymore.”

To best address recruitment and retention rates in law enforcement, nearly half of the responses from the survey indicated they wanted support from political and municipal leaders. For Sheriff Riggs, he says he wants those individuals to stay neutral.

“When we have an incident, an unfortunate incident where someone dies as a result of law enforcement contact, and that is, you know, that is never wanted by any of us, right? And those kinds of things will happen, and they’ll continue to happen,” he said. “What we want from our leaders in the state, what we want from our leaders in the country, this is a process that happens. We want those parties to remain neutral and not talk about the incident. We want them to not show support one way or the other. We want justice to occur. And in order for justice to occur, there needs to not be a bias one way or the other. We don’t want political leaders telling the public that this was something that didn’t need to happen, and maybe it was something like that. But when you have the political leaders defending or defaming it opens up the door for things to happen that shouldn’t happen.”

When asked what is the most important priority for this legislative session, nearly 65% of respondents put holding prosecutors accountable for charging decisions at the top of the list.

“There are things that happen in a case that are outside of the abilities of the prosecutor, and there are things that are outside of the ability of law enforcement, and I think when you come to a resolution between the two, as long as one side is not making the sole decision based off of the lack of information or a lack of collaboration between the two,” added Sheriff Riggs. “There are bad cases and there are good cases that go forward, and nobody wants to lose, right? So there are those cases that are out there that, you know, law enforcement gets upset with when the prosecutor says, ‘I can’t prosecute this and win.'”

Results from the survey also showed that 80% of respondents are unlikely or very unlikely to recommend law enforcement as a profession to a family member.

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