Minnesota city where entire police force quit narrowly avoids having no law enforcement

The Goodhue City Council unanimously agreed to a contract with the county sheriff just hours before the police department's final day.

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A small city in Minnesota approved a contract just hours before it was to have been left with no law enforcement after its entire police department resigned.

The Goodhue City Council unanimously agreed Wednesday to a temporary contract with the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office to run from Thursday through the end of the year.

The entire police department in Goodhue, in southeast Minnesota between Minneapolis and Rochester, resigned this month, and Wednesday was its members' final day.

Narrowly avoiding having no policing, the City Council's contract with the sheriff's office runs through Dec. 31.

Mayor Ellen Anderson Buck commended Sheriff Marty Kelly for his work to ease the transition between departments.

"I think the community is very excited for your presence here, and they've already noticed your presence, so thank you," Anderson Buck said at Wednesday's council meeting.

The contract costs the city $43,548 for more than four months of services. It includes at least six hours of patrolling per day, according to the Star Tribune newspaper of Minneapolis.

Kelly confirmed Thursday that the sheriff's office has begun working with the city, although it is four staff members short. The county is likely to contract with the council again for next year as the city tries to restore its police department.

"Staffing shortages and pay are the driving force in many small departments' disbanding across the country and we are not immune in our county," Kelly said. "Many sheriff’s offices and police departments at this point are just trading officers and deputies, and we are not gaining any ground."

Kelly said that current law enforcement students cannot make up for expected retirements and that it might take years for to resolve the shortage.

The mayor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Former Police Chief Josh Smith submitted his resignation Aug. 9, and a full-time officer and five part-time employees resigned just two days later, The Associated Press reported.

Smith discussed difficulties in hiring officers at a council meeting last month, blaming low pay as a reason he saw no applicants for open positions. He said he was trying to hire officers at $22 an hour while other small departments were offering at least $8 more.

“There’s zero incentive to come out here to a small town — low pay, being on call, affecting your free time and everything else,” Smith said at the time.

Anderson Buck told NBC affiliate KARE of Minneapolis last week that she was blindsided by the resignations after the council had been working on the city budget to increase officer salaries.

The council increased officer salaries by 5% and gave the chief a $13,000 raise at the beginning of the year, she said.

“We knew we were on the low side, and so we were trying very, very hard to bring those numbers up,” she said.