STILLWATER (WCCO) – Fallout over the disbanding of the Forest Lake Police Department continues in Washington County.
After months of debate, city council members voted 3-2 Monday night to get rid of the police force and contract law enforcement services with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. The move means 23 police officers will lose their jobs.
The decision was met with fierce opposition from hundreds who begged the council to reconsider. Many of those same people showed up to the Washington County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning.
The gauntlet was thrown at city council members Monday night, but this mess is not over yet. The Washington County Board of Commissioners still needs to vote to approve the contract with the City of Forest Lake.
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If the county approves the new contract, the sheriff’s office would take control on Sept. 1. But dozens of people traveled to Stillwater Tuesday morning, calling on Washington County to vote down the measure.
Instead, they asked commissioners to investigate certain elected leaders in Forest Lake and the events that led up to the disbanding of the police department. Multiple people spoke out during the public comment portion of the meeting, claiming Mayor Ben Winnick is using a public office to carry out personal vendettas.
“We’ve heard a lot about corruption from people here. When you’ve got a mayor whose wife was convicted of stealing the opponent’s campaign signs and gets convicted, and the mayor takes out the police department, in policing we call that a clue,” POFM President Lt. Bob Kroll said.
Forest Lake High School students walked out of class Tuesday afternoon to protest the council’s decision. They walked to city hall to show their support for the police department and protest Monday’s vote.
As for when Washington County commissioners will make their final decision on the contract, it could happen as soon as next week or as late as the first week of June. There is something in it for the county, and that’s the money they would receive for contracting with Forest Lake.