Gun violence, policing dominate Hennepin County attorney candidate forum

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Candidates for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Race were asked questions about police accountability and gun violence within Minneapolis communities.


Candidates Mary Moriarty, Martha Holton Dimick and other attendees exchanged responses to a few questions submitted by a handful of people at the Forum organized by the League of Women Voters in the Sojourner Truth Academy gym in north Minneapolis.


Moriarty spent 31 years at the Hennepin County Public Defender Office, six of them as chief public defense. She retired in 2021. She was awarded the DFL endorsement. She dominated the field of seven candidates in August’s Democratic primary. More than 36% of more than 62,000 votes were cast for her, twice the number of the next candidate.


Dimick, a former Hennepin County prosecutor, and Fourth Judicial District Judge before retiring in 2020 came in second during the August primary. She received nearly 18% of votes, beating Ryan Winkler, DFL state House Majority Leader, by less than two percentage points.


Violent crime, gun violence


Forum moderators asked a variety of questions about rising crime in the county and ways they would tackle gun violence.


Moriarty stated that she would work with the U.S. attorney’s office in order to stop the flow of guns into neighborhoods and to reduce their use. She indicated that she would also consider filing lawsuits against gun producers using the civil division of the county attorney’s offices. These two solutions could be combined with youth violence intervention programs.


Dimick advocated swift prosecution of gun violence offenses and the establishment of a task force that includes prosecutors, law enforcement, and community members.


Dimick answered a question about how to stop a “revolving door” of offenders committing crime and being released to do more. She said that she supports diversion programs for low-level offenders as well as those suffering from addiction to drugs or mental illness. She said that violent offenders should be kept in prison.


Moriarty stated that she would evaluate which offenders are being held in jail while they await trial and which are being released. She also said that she will assess whether the outgoing criminals are committing more offenses. She stated that this data-based approach could help to prevent repeat offenders.


Moriarty stated that it was not enough to talk about slogans like “revolving door” and other such phrases. We must look at the real problems in order to find the solutions .”


Working together with police


Candidates were asked questions about their interactions with the Minneapolis Police Department. These included how they would handle reports of racism and excessive force use, and how they would regain public trust after the murder of George Floyd by an ex-MPD officer sparked worldwide outrage.

Tony Nelson, MinnPost photo
Martha Holton Dimick stated that she supports the expansion of diversion programs for low-level offenders as well as those suffering from addiction to drugs or mental illness.


The Minnesota Department of Human Rights released an April report that found MPD engaged in racial disparity in its policing. In her conversations with community members Dimick stated that this behavior has been a problem for some time.


She said that she had spoken with members of my North Side community about police interactions and that the history was very poor. “We didn’t need the Department of Human Rights telling us there was discriminatory behavior towards black or brown people in my neighborhood .”


She expressed hope that the proposed reforms of Mayor Jacob Frey, and the new Office of Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander, will rebuild trust in MPD. She stressed the need for better communication between police and prosecutors.


Previously, Moriarty stated that prosecutors often ignored or looked the other way when a police officer was engaging in discriminatory behavior.


She will be the county prosecutor and her goal is to hold police accountable. This includes pursuing them if they are convicted of a crime and flagging any policy violations or misconduct to the police leadership to allow them to intervene early and correct the situation.


Reform efforts


They also discussed their plans to improve the operation of the county attorney’s office. This includes moving away from cash bail to one that’s not wealth-based, expungement for criminal records making it easier, and giving prosecutorial staff more input into decision-making.


Dimick was asked how she could improve the juvenile justice system. She said that she would foster programs to help juvenile offenders reintegrate better into the community and stay out of jail.


Moriarty stressed violence prevention efforts to prevent crimes such as shootings from ever happening.

Tony Nelson, MinnPost photo
Mary Moriarty, as county prosecutor, stated that her goal is to hold the police accountable, by prosecuting them if they are convicted of a crime and flagging policy violations and misconduct to the police leadership so they can correct them early.


She said, “I have been to so many funerals and all of them have one thing in common: nobody wishes to be there.” “So, to the extent we can partner with violence prevention programmes to prevent this from happening. This will benefit the community and our youth.”


What did think?


Rochelle Washington (43), a community engagement specialist and resident of the North Side of the city, stated that she was unsure about who she should support, but ended up supporting Dimick.


She said, “I resonate with her as an African American woman trying to make a difference in the community that we live in.” “I identify with her as an African American woman who is trying to make a difference in the community we live .”


Washington expressed her appreciation for Dimick’s efforts to improve the relationships between county prosecutors and their community. Washington believes that Holton Dimick’s dedication to their community is reflected in her decision to retire from the bench and run for a position that would allow her to be more involved in solving the city’s safety issues.


She said, “That speaks volumes.” “Even though she will be earning less, it is clear that her passion is .”


Liban Hassan (25-year-old real estate developer) said that while both candidates were good, he needed to see more before he cast his vote in November.


Hassan stated that he would like to see Hennepin County Attorney address racial disparities and hold police responsible for crimes committed. He wants them to communicate better with residents than the current county top prosecutor. Hassan said that he believes this is a way to keep the status quo from working for everyone.


He said that they are doing the same thing every time, which is not making the community better. They need to be more transparent with the community, do different things and listen to Hennepin County span>

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