Forest Lake, MN - After city residents vowed to remove the mayor and city council over their decision to disband the police department, the city of Forest Lake has now reached a tentative agreement with the two labor unions representing the 25 Forest Lake police officers.
This will result in a council move to withdraw its acceptance of the Washington County Sheriff's Office proposal to take over law enforcement for the city of Forest Lake. It also means that the Forest Lake Police Department won't have to disband, according to The Forest Lake Times.
Mara Bain, the Forest Lake city council member who voted against disbanding the FLPD earlier this week, said that "the city is going to do an official statement, but I am going to confirm." The city council is expected to pass a resolution on the agreement at its meeting on Monday, May 15.
Ms. Bain said, "This has been only the result of this community banding together and showing its … undying support for the Police Department. This is a great day for the Forest Lake community.”
The Forest Lake city council voted 3-2 on Monday to disband its police department and instead use the services of the Washington County Sheriff's Office. The result? $387,000 saved, 25 police officers out of a job, and reduced service to the community.
Hundreds of residents were on hand at Monday's meetings and loudly booing and cursing Mayor Ben Winnick, who led the push for disbandment of the police department, according to The Washington Times.
The backlash didn't end with Monday's meeting. Shortly after the meeting ended, a petition was started to remove the Mayor from office. On Tuesday afternoon, May 9, about 1,000 students walked out of Forest Lake Area High School in protest of the council's decision, and marched to city hall.
In today's agreement with the labor unions, several items were agreed upon, including a three-year-contract that includes a 2% salary increase starting in July, a 2% increase in 2018, and a 3% increase in 2019; no change in retiree health benefits; and changes in the arbitration process between the unions and the city.
In a press release, FLPD Chief Ricky Peterson had high praise for his officers "for their professionalism during this trying time."
It was amazing to see citizens and youth coming together to support their local law enforcement.
The WCSO was scheduled to assume their new law enforcement role on September 1. I'm glad they're not. And I'm not the only one. FLPD is lucky to have the support of their community.