Walz renews call for legislative action as BCA 'overwhelmed' with crime evidence

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, as he faces criticism from Republicans about a two-year wave of violent crime, said state lawmakers should agree to come back to the Capitol and pass new police funding.

Walz toured the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's evidence processing units on Thursday, then met with BCA Superintendent Drew Evans and Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington. The state has surged resources into the Twin Cities this summer to curb crime, moves that have had modest effects on overall crime trends.

"Yes, I’m trying to figure out a way to get them (the Legislature) back, to get this done," Walz told reporters. "I can’t imagine where the opposition is to putting the money into more BCA researchers to process weapons of war off the street and protect lives of innocent Minnesotans."

The State Patrol and BCA have gotten more heavily involved in Minneapolis since the July 4 shooting that injured eight people at Boom Island Park and a chaotic scene in the Mill District, where teens shot fireworks at apartment buildings from moving cars. 

The governor and his top law enforcement officials rattled off statistics from the number of guns recovered, traffic stops, street racing stings, and suspects captured using surveillance from the State Patrol's helicopters over the past two weekends. As Walz spoke, the BCA displayed boxes containing guns recovered from crime scenes. Officials said several were so-called ghost guns, which are guns assembled from kits purchased on the internet that don't carry serial numbers. 

In Minneapolis, some violent crime is down somewhat from last year's highs, though up considerably from longer-term averages. Homicides have fallen 19% over the year, while gunshot wound victims are down 10% and shots fired calls have dropped 7%, according to Minneapolis Police data. Carjackings are on pace to set another record.

Minneapolis officials, who have seen their police department hollowed out from a wave of early retirements and duty disability claims since 2020, asked the state for law enforcement help this summer.

Crime is also a potent issue in this fall's election. Walz's presumptive Republican opponent, Dr. Scott Jensen, has called the DFL governor weak on crime. Jensen has said he'll push the Legislature for longer prison sentences for many offenders, while more frequently sending the State Patrol into Minneapolis.

Inside their lab, BCA officials said Thursday that they frequently process crime scenes that have more than 100 shell casings. The additional evidence requires forensic scientists to spend additional time on each case, leading to backlogs, they said.

"We are simply overwhelmed with the amount of evidence that is coming into our laboratory day in and day out," Evans said.

During this year's legislative session, lawmakers could not agree on a bonding bill that included funding for a new BCA field office in Mankato. Nor could they settle on a supplemental budget package that included Walz's request for a $13.9 million twin-engine replacement helicopter for the State Patrol.

Lawmakers also could not agree on a public safety budget bill amid disagreements over how much new funding police agencies should get. Minnesota has one of the only divided state legislatures in the country.

Walz has slowly shifted his messaging on a special session over the summer. This week, he said for the first time that he's "open" to calling the Legislature back without an agreement on what to take up. The governor has said a special session before the Aug. 9 primary is unlikely because several Republican senators face primary challengers.