McLeod County may be asked to send officers to assist in security during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Sheriff Tim Langenfeld discussed the matter with the County Board Feb. 16, and presented a mutual aid agreement between his office and Minneapolis. Board members approved the agreement, which assures the county will be reimbursed for assistance it provides. It does not commit the county to provide aid.
"They have asked almost all the law enforcement agencies that are willing to send staff if they can to fill out and agree to the same agreements," Langenfeld said. "It's important for people to understand that I have not made a decision that we will send staff. ... We are experiencing our own staffing issues within the sheriff's office, so the number of people, because of the timeline they would want them, we may not be able to meet."
The March 8 trial is in regards to second-degree murder and manslaughter charges against Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd. The incident created public outrage last May when it was revealed Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey recently announced up to 2,000 National Guard members and 1,100 law enforcement officers will be activated by the time a verdict is reached. A security perimeter is already being established around the Hennepin County Government Center, City Hall and nearby buildings.
Langenfeld said Minneapolis asked what training McLeod County officers had, and what aid they would be able to provide.
"Our staff would be (able) to assist the sheriff in protecting the county assets, which would be the Government Center, the jail, the communications center and other areas the sheriff or the county need protected," he said. "Last summer, some of those areas were breached, and they have a pretty solid plan on what to do to make that not happen again."
McLeod County officers would not roam the streets or respond to hot spots.
Board Member Nathan Schmalz was at first hesitant about the mutual aid agreement, in part due to staffing shortages in the McLeod County Sheriff's Office.
"I'm looking at protecting the citizens of McLeod County and my district," he said. "I would not be comfortable putting any of our McLeod County deputies in harm's way down in Minneapolis."
He also raised concerns regarding reimbursement, as he had learned some entities were still awaiting reimbursement from last May.
McLeod County Attorney Michael Junge said McLeod County has relied on other agencies in the past to provide specialized skills when needed, such as for a bomb squad.
"It's important that law enforcement work in as holistic a form as possible," Junge said.
Board Member Joe Nagel agreed.
"The reimbursement is important to fund this, but obviously I have a biased opinion," he said, referencing his work as a Hutchinson police officer. "When you are asking for help, when another cop is asking for help, you go. And that's what they're asking for. The sheriff will make a decision if it makes sense to send our staff, depending on the needs. He is not going to leave ... McLeod County coverage empty. There are other law enforcement agencies that can help supplement county activities within the county. It makes sense, if the need is there, and the sheriff has the discretion to send people, and he thinks it's the best move, we aught to give that to him."
Nagel made the motion to approve the agreement, which Board Member Paul Wright seconded. Schmalz said he felt his concerns had been addressed during the discussion, and agreed to support the motion, which passed unanimously.