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Rescheduled 'crime crisis' event draws larger crowd after controversy

Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin and Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson spoke at a "Crime Crisis: Rochester" event held by the Center of the American Experiment.

CAE April 26 event 01.JPG
Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson speaks to a crowd at the Rochester International Event Center Tuesday, April 26, 2022, as Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin, background, and Jeff Van Nest, a policy fellow with the Center of the American Experiment listen.
John Molseed / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — A rescheduled event to discuss public safety hosted by a right-wing think tank Tuesday was well attended, but uneventful.

Members of the Center of the American Experiment held a “Crime Crisis: Rochester” event at the Rochester International Event Center Tuesday. Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin and Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson spoke to a crowd of more than 180 people attending the event. That's about four times the number of people registered to attend an event the group scheduled last month.

Both law enforcement leaders said they saw the event as an opportunity to talk about the good law enforcement officials do for their communities. They said it has been a tough time for police since George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officers in 2020.

“What happened is the blanket was thrown over everyone in uniform,” Torgerson said.

The killing sparked protests and a movement to defund police departments.

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Jeff Van Nest, a policy fellow with CAE, said the movement to shift funding away from police has been rejected. He pointed to President Joe Biden’s promise to “fund the police” in his State of the Union Address.

Another event, which was scheduled for March 14, 2022, at the Rochester Golf & Country Club, was canceled after a petition was presented to RGCC saying that other CAE events and luncheons featured rhetoric that led to people causing “chaos” at Rochester Public School Board meetings last year.

CAE has since sued RGCC , noting the event had 44 pre-registered guests, in their legal filing.

Torgerson and Franklin also were questioned for their participation in the group’s event.

Both said they are happy to talk about the challenges and successes of local policing to any group that invites them.

Torgerson said he asked people calling him to task for accepting the invitation to hold their own event. He has yet to receive such an invitation, he said.

Franklin told the crowd that a rise in violent crime in Minnesota and especially the Twin Cities is due in part to the “Ferguson effect.” The rise is caused in part by reduced proactive policing due to the community's distrust of police officers following an incident of police brutality or misconduct.

“We aren’t seeing the carjackings we’re seeing in the Twin Cities, thankfully,” Franklin said. “Quite frankly, it’s out of control in the Twin Cities.”

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Fran Bradley, a former state representative and chairman of the Rochester CAE organization, said the larger turnout was heartening.

“I am more determined than ever to hold events like this,” he said. “I will not let our opinions be suppressed by a small majority of people.”

The event cost $5 to attend. Bradley and Van Nest both asked for donations to the political organization following Franklin and Torgerson's talks.

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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