A time for action on gun violence

Council Perspectives
A time for action on gun violence
Fellow Saint Paulites, the tragedy that happened at a bar in St. Paul a few weeks ago was extremely frightening, heart-breaking and unacceptable. All law-abiding people should feel and be safe from violence in our city. It is brazen violence like this that, in both feel and fact, challenges that value, and St. Paul cannot and will not tolerate that.
My heart breaks for the grieving family of the young woman whose life was senselessly stolen, as well as for the other innocent victims who were physically harmed and are emotionally traumatized by the actions of the criminals with guns who perpetrated these brazen acts of murderous violence.
While due process is necessary and will be provided, we must also ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable in our justice system so that we bring justice to the victims and their families and so that they cannot harm other innocent people in our community. 
Additionally, I am grateful for the police officers, civilians, medics and ER teams at multiple hospitals that provided aid and care to the victims. 
I believe Saint Paul needs a well-trained police force to ensure the wellbeing and safety of all St. Paul residents. I recognize that Chief Axtell and the mayor have differences in their proposed budgets for the Saint Paul Police Department, and believe that we can come to a solution, free of unnecessary negative discourse, to properly fund the police department. I am supportive of the Saint Paul Police Department’s request for additional resources for two police academies a year so that our staffing stays stable. 
Additionally, the police department is currently beginning an academy with 65 recruits who will be ready to be officers by early 2022. After four months of academy, and four months of field training, these officers will replace the officers who have retired, transferred or left the city for other reasons. Although we don’t know all the officers who will separate from the city in the next few months, the police department estimates that this academy will bring the department near the 620 sworn strength that Chief Axtell has requested.
I also believe that we all need to do more to prevent gun violence. In addition to local policing efforts, we need our state and federal governments to act now and pass stronger laws that are proven to reduce violence and fund gun violence prevention programs.
I encourage you to patronize West 7th businesses and support our neighbors through this difficult time. 
Chris Tolbert is the Saint Paul Councilmember for Ward 3 representing the Highland Park and Macalester Groveland neighborhoods. He can be reached by email at ward3@ci.stpaul.mn.us.

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