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Published September 18 2012

VIDEO: Taylor proposes boosting police, judicial ranks in ND

FARGO – Calling the current administration unresponsive to the state’s growing law enforcement needs, gubernatorial candidate Ryan Taylor laid out a proposal Tuesday to bolster the state’s police and judicial ranks.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, meanwhile, said the state has moved effectively to deal with the issue, and that he will take his own steps to beef up the justice system.

Speaking at a media event in Fargo, Taylor said he would add 143 law enforcement officers and personnel, plus new judgeships and courthouse staff in overtaxed areas.

He said that would ensure the state has at least as many police officers per capita – just under two per 1,000 residents – as it did in the early stages of the oil boom in 2009.

He said those officers would cost about $15 million, paid for from existing oil tax revenues, as well as grants.

Taylor said Dalrymple has been slow-footed in responding to the state’s needs and has let the state fall behind in dealing with the boom.

“Our hardworking officers and others are stretched to the max, and current state leaders have failed to keep North Dakotans as safe as they were even three short years ago,” he said.

Taylor also proposed adding two new judgeships in the northwest, more public defenders and court personnel to handle a sharp increase in cases, and more funding for the state’s crime lab.

Many of those proposals were recommendations in a report released in August from the state Bar Association on the impact of the energy boom on the state’s criminal justice system.

In an interview, Dalrymple said he’d follow many of the same recommendations.

He said the state will add more Highway Patrol officers and put more money into emergency services.

It’s not yet clear how many patrol officers he intends to add, but Dalrymple said it will be “a substantial number.”

He said he won’t dictate how many new police officers local jurisdictions should add.

“Those are decisions made locally,” he said. “We believe our role is to make sure cities and counties are adequately funded.”

The number of crimes committed in the state has risen sharply in recent years, but a report from the attorney general’s office this summer said those rises have been largely because of the state’s increase in population, not a higher crime rate.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502