Editorial Roundup: Restraining orders need stricter penalties in Minn.

Published 8:49 pm Friday, August 6, 2021

Hate has no home here. Not in Central Minnesota. Not anywhere.

Yet, it still seems to find a way to survive among us.

Last week, a Cold Spring family, who for more than two months has been the target of alleged racist harassment, woke harshly to a stolen SUV with a piece of granite on the accelerator crashing into their home as they slept.

A man from Richmond, a neighboring town, has been charged in connection with the incident.

The family said they had been harassed by the man for more than 80 days. Stearns County Court issued a harassment restraining order on May 21, barring him from any contact with the family. But since then, he had been charged four times with violating that order.

If he’s ultimately proven to be the culprit after the legal process is completed, this seems like an incident that could have been prevented. With a restraining order and four violations, it’s not like no one could see it coming.

Around 100 people showed up to a Cold Spring City Council meeting Tuesday to show their support for the family. Council members said they will ask to have Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison review the case for potential hate crime charges and establish a committee to address racism.

These actions are nice, but the elephant in the room remains. There are still members of our community that want to do harm to others, and the current legal tools to protect people from known threats are apparently not working.

There is still fact-finding to be done around recent events in Cold Spring to glean what went wrong, how, and who knew about it but failed to stop it.

One of the things that is already clear, however, is a fact of our legal system that has been obvious for years: A restraining order does little to protect people at risk unless their adversary chooses to be law-abiding. And if the adversary was inclined to be law-abiding, they’re unlikely to be subject to a restraining order in the first place.

A restraining order followed by a violation of said restraining order (or a no-contact order) is a common refrain in harassment, stalking and domestic violence cases, custody disputes and all the other terrible things that happen between humans and end up in the legal system.

It’s time to call on our lawmakers and the Minnesota court system to review and revise what restraining orders can do and institute penalties for violating them would better protect victims (or keep them from becoming victims at all).

Then, law enforcement has to enforce those rules.

How many strikes before someone subject to a restraining order is “out”? We think it’s too many for comfort right now.

— St. Cloud Times, July 30

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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