The Forest Lake City Council chamber overflowed again Feb. 13 as the body discussed and approved its contract law enforcement evaluation guiding principles.
The principles were passed more or less as discussed at the council’s Feb. 6 work session. They include tenets on public engagement and weighing the possibility of contracting with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement on the basis of service delivery and budget impact comparisons with the Forest Lake Police Department.
The changes that were made included the addition of more aspects of law enforcement to the list of what will be benchmarked and the addition of a council intention to conduct a statistically valid poll of residents regarding the evaluation once the city receives a proposal from the sheriff’s office (Councilwoman Mara Bain proposed both changes). Learn more about the guidelines in the Feb. 9 story “Council explores contract law enforcement guidelines” or online at ow.ly/6sct3090flG.
The evening was marked by a pre-meeting protest of the Personnel Committee’s contract proposal request to the Sheriff’s Office (with at least 50 protesters, double the number who came to the Feb. 6 work session to protest), as well as the first official councilman attempt to shut down the evaluation process when Sam Husnik moved to abandon the proposal request. The motion failed, 3-2, with Councilmen Ed Eigner and Michael Freer and Mayor Ben Winnick voting against. Once again, the open forum segment of the meeting was filled with residents speaking on the law enforcement topic, with the majority of speakers asking the council to stop the process and keep the Police Department intact.
During the council comments at the end of the meeting, Freer said he was inspired by a conversation with Bain to speak more publicly about the law enforcement evaluation. He encouraged Bain, Husnik and the public not to jump to conclusions about the viability of the contract law enforcement option and asked for an open-minded discussion.
“People can agree to disagree on whether we should have asked for a proposal or not or the process that went into it, but we should have people keeping an open mind as to whether they would consider Washington County or whether they would consider the Forest Lake Police Department,” he said.
“I continue to think the window’s open about that far with you right now,” he added to Bain, holding up two fingers close together, “and it should be much more open than that. Council Member Husnik has said in the paper that he’s not open to it at all, (and) we should all be open-minded on everything.”