City policy would target protocol in killing deer

City council to review matter again on Tuesday, May 1st

Jennifer Mevissen
Staff Writer

The dispatching of two orphaned fawns before dawn on Jan. 14 has not only traumatized one family, but also called into question the steps that were taken before the incident occurred at 10010 North Shore Trail N.

The Forest Lake City Council took up the issue at a workshop in early April but no consensus was reached by members. The discussion will continue on Tuesday, May 1 during a special meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m. The public is welcome to provide comments during a town hall forum at the May 1st workshop.

In February, city resident Jeff Carpenter filed a formal complaint against Forest Lake Police Department patrol officer Brent Degroot who fired the fatal shots on their lawn that January morning. The police department did an initial investigation into any wrongdoing, which was followed by a second opinion by internal affairs at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Police Chief Rick Peterson said no violations of any Minnesota State Statutes, as well as department general orders or standard operating procedures were found. Although Peterson has been told not to speak on the matter, he reported that Degroot has been cleared of allegations of misconduct.

“Because of Data Privacy Laws, I cannot discuss any of the details pertaining to this incident or the contents of it,” Peterson wrote an e-mail to the Forest Lake Times.

Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton’s office has also declined to comment on the results of its investigation.

City Policy

On Tuesday, April 3, City Administrator Aaron Parrish said staff’s recommendation is not to adopt a dispatch policy that would apply to private property per the request of Carpenter.

Parrish cited the following reasons:

1. Obtaining property owner consent can be time consuming, particularly if the owner is not home or does not live in the area. The success of dispatching an animal with this type of notification provision is significantly reduced.

2. An animal may pose an inherent public safety risk that needs to be resolved immediately.

3. Most deer that are dispatched have been hit by a car. This policy would prolong suffering of the animal.

4. State law currently permits law enforcement to dispatch animals on private property presumably for the reasons identified above.

Council Views

Two council members, Jim DuFour and Susan Young, were in agreement not to establish new protocol.

DuFour said he didn’t want to tie the hands of law enforcement to dispatch animals at the right time. Young said she was not willing to write a policy that would be in direct conflict with state laws.

“I’m hesitant to micromanage the police department,” said Mayor Chris Johnson.

Parrish acknowledged that had there been different information, the situation at the Carpenter home could have been handled differently.

“Even if we had a policy, I don’t think it would have changed that storyline,” Johnson said.

A Department of Natural Resources e-mail to city police requested that the department’s officers dispatch the two fawns if found. The Carpenters fed the abandoned deer, even outfitting them with bright collars to tell them apart.

Councilwoman Jackie McNamara asked why there wasn’t more investigating done within their neighborhood. She said a couple of knocks on doors would have revealed what residents in that area already knew about the pair.

“I’m embarrassed for our community,” McNamara said.

She believes the procedure – even followed correctly – is wrong.

“Chief Peterson said we have the option of not doing what the DNR says,” McNamara said.

Young said that she doesn’t want to send the message that in Forest Lake things are done differently.

Councilman Mike Freer asked a number of questions during the workshop discussion, and added that he did not feel the situation rose to an emergency level requiring the early-morning killing of the young deer.

Carpenter Speaks

In a later interview, Carpenter said the DNR failed to investigate the case before the shooting and the police department didn’t carry out the order to kill in a safe and discreet manner. He said the family has considered filing a civil suit against Degroot, but the officer would just seek legal representation and his defense would come at the cost to taxpayers.

“We’d sue for principal,” Carpenter said.

He is also upset over what Carpenter calls inaccuracies related to distances in Degroot’s report of the incident.

Aside from them, Carpenter said nobody will admit culpability. He’d like an apology from the DNR and FLPD.

“It would make a big difference it they did,” Carpenter said, “but we’ll never get that.”