The city of Forest Lake received a proposal for contract law enforcement in the city from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office the evening of April 4, according to city staff. The proposal estimated that the total adjusted cost to the city for sheriff’s office law enforcement service in 2018 to be approximately $2.9 million, plus about $87,600 in one-time implementation costs. In 2017, the city budgeted approximately $4.04 million for police services, but the actual levy impact is estimated as closer to $3.2 million because several of the costs of the department are reimbursed by items like police state aid or the Forest Lake Area Schools’ contract for school resource officers. City staff told The Times that further analysis is being done to determine exactly how much cost difference there is between the proposal and the city’s current spending, as there are factors in the city’s current spending that may be unaccounted for in the proposal and which may shift the total cost differential lower or higher.
For staffing levels, the proposal centralizes some local police-related services (like record-keeping) within overall sheriff’s office operations, and it states that dedicated investigative services for the city will be assisted when necessary by county-wide investigators. The proposal states that the sheriff’s office expects that its proposed staffing level would lead to “a net increase in available resources on demand.”
To that end, the proposal outlines a plan for one commander, three sergeants, three investigators, three school resource officers, 15.5 patrol officers and one office support person. The Police Department currently employs one chief, one captain, four sergeants, four detectives, three school resource officers, 10 patrol officers and two administrative assistants, but the department budgeted for two additional patrol officers this year for a total of 12. The department is currently operating at 10 patrol officers because two patrol officers have left the department this year, and the city has postponed a request to fill those positions while it considers the proposal.
The entire proposal can be viewed at the city’s website. More information will be posted as it becomes available. The city is planning to hold an open house regarding the proposal, the date of which will likely be set at the City Council’s April 10 meeting.