Forest Lake Reaches New Contract to Save Police Department

A new contract with the police union would continue the department at least through 2019.

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FOREST LAKE, Minn. – Forest Lake police officers voted unanimously to accept a new labor agreement with the city on Thursday, nearly wrapping up a complete turnaround from the city’s vote earlier this week to disband the department.

A tentative deal was struck between the city and the police union Wednesday, reports KARE 11. Members of both the patrol and sergeant’s unions accepted the terms of the three-year deal unanimously on Thursday. The deal includes two and three percent pay raises, and allows the force to maintain its health care benefits for both active and retired officers.

The Forest Lake City Council will vote on the contract Monday, one week after voting to disband the department and contract law enforcement out to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

About 1,300 Forest Lake High School and two middle schools walked out of class Tuesday in support of their local police department. Previously council meetings had been flooded with angry constituents, and a petition was started calling for Forest Lake Mayor Ben Winnick’s impeachment. At time of writing it was 79 signatures short of its 2,500 person goal.

“This is a great day for Forest Lake,” Council member Mara Bain, who opposed disbanding the department, told the Pioneer Press. “This only happened because this community did not give up and continued to express its undying support for the Forest Lake Police Department.”

Washington County Sheriff Dan Starry was instrumental in getting both the police union and the city back to the negotiating table to restart talks of things aside from disbandment.  

“It is clear to me that the public values the service the Forest Lake Police Department provides,” Starry said in a statement. “I look forward to maintaining the collaborative relationship we have with the Forest Lake Police Department.”

Several other cities in the county contract out law enforcement to the Washington County Sheriff’s office rather than having their own police department. This includes Mahtomedi, Afton, and Hugo, none of which are as large as Forest Lake.

“This has been an extremely difficult conversation and I have been proud of the professionalism my officers have maintained during this discussion,” Forest Lake Police Chief Richard Peterson said in a press release, “If approved, I look forward to collaborating with the City Council to provide high quality law enforcement services that meet the expectations of the council and community.”

The city council’s vote on the new contract will take place at a special meeting Monday, May 15, at 6:30 p.m.

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