Police unions, GOP want reform, take prosecutors out of cop’s case
Police unions, GOP want reform, take prosecutors out of cop’s case

Two unions representing Minnesota police and state officials wrote a letter to Gov. Tim Waltz last Friday. An elected prosecutor in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, was prosecuting one of their own, and they wanted her off the case — immediately.

On Wednesday, four Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Minnesota followed up with another letter to Walz expressing “outrage” over the same case. “It’s time as a nation to stop demonizing law enforcement,” the Republican representatives wrote. They called for an investigation by Hennepin County District Attorney Mary Moriarty. At least one of the four, Congressman Michelle Fischbach, did Named for Moriarty to resign.

Just days earlier, Republican Minnesota state lawmakers called on Moriarty to resign and drop charges against the state trooper in the case. Lawmakers accused her of coddling criminals and targeting police in “politically motivated prosecutions.”

The controversy erupted over the prosecution of a state trooper who shot and killed 33-year-old Ricky Cobb II, a black man, during a traffic stop in July. Moriarty’s office said the officer’s use of deadly force against Cobb was not justified.

The pressure campaign against the prosecutor’s office seems to be paying off so far. Asked about the case during a news conference Monday, Waltz, a Democrat, questioned Moriarty’s handling of the allegations and criticized her assessment of the use of force. However, the governor’s office has not yet said whether Moriarty will be removed from the case. (Moriarty’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but in a previous statement she said the unions wanted Walz to “take a special approach to this case.” Walz’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)

Attacks like those against Moriarty are not unique to Minnesota. Moriarty was among a group of reform-minded prosecutors who began winning elections in greater numbers in recent years. Voters increasingly voted for criminal justice reformers, who began prosecuting police for misconduct and killing civilians, eliminating cash bail and limiting prosecution of nonviolent crimes.

In response, opponents of the push for reform have been increasingly clear about why they want to remove elected lawyers like Moriarty: They’re going after the police.

“Clearly, this is not about safety,” said Jessica Brand, who founded the Wren Collective, a progressive consulting firm and works with several reforming prosecutors. “It’s about power — they don’t want prosecutors in office to hold them accountable when they abuse their power. That’s the theme that runs through the reaction in every state.”

“Clearly it’s not about safety. It’s about power – they don’t want prosecutors in office to hold them accountable.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis unilaterally removed two prosecutors who implemented policies he didn’t like, including one who indicted a sheriff’s deputy for shooting a civilian in 2020. Attorney DeSantis, appointed to replace former state attorney Monique Worrell, Federalist Society Andrew Bain, dropped the charges against the deputy sheriff last week.

In Texas, where top Republican state officials and police have blamed reformed prosecutors for police burnout and crime, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is now requiring police prosecution records in every county with more than 250,000 residents. The population threshold is aimed at larger cities where reformers have won office or found significant support.

“When some crimes went up post-Covid, police unions were quick to attack progressive prosecutors and their policies, no matter how modest those policies were,” Brandt said. “Crime is now down and these attacks are not only continuing, they are increasing.”

Moves from SF to Philly

Opposition to district attorneys who have begun to prosecute police misconduct, often leading to formal impeachment and removal efforts, has come largely from the police.

In a letter to Walz last week, the Minnesota police unions and state employees accused Moriarty of creating a “state of crisis” among law enforcement officers in the state. They cited Minneapolis in particular, where police ranks have shrunk since an officer killed George Floyd in May 2020.

The unions wrote: “There is a crisis of confidence in an elected leadership that is supposed to be a partner in making our communities safer, but instead seeks to score political points by indicting every police officer who is forced by circumstances to use lethal force.” force, regardless of evidence.” (In his statement in response to the letter, Moriarty said: “[T]there is a crisis of confidence, but it is not because of attempts at accountability. This is due to well-documented and appalling cases of some officers abusing their authority and using unauthorized force.”

Similar sagas have played out from San Francisco to Philadelphia. The police and their unions led attacks on the reformed prosecutors and poured money into efforts to remove them from office. In Worrell’s case in Florida, DeSantis reportedly worked with law enforcement agencies targeted by Worrell for prosecution to tarnish her reputation before removing her from office.

In Moriarty’s case, the attacks also come from former allies.

Cobb’s killing is not the first case in which Moriarty has been threatened with removal for sticking to reforms she is leading in 2020. Last year, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison took over another case from Moriarty, in which she declined to charge two teenagers , charged with murder as adults.

Ellison had built a reputation as a reformer and fought off attacks from Republicans who said he was soft on crime to win the 2022 election for attorney general. The juvenile case put Ellison and Moriarty on opposite ends of a battle for reform that have ever shared.

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