Forest Lake Approves New Police Contract

The 4-1 vote reversed the decision to eliminate the department just one week earlier.

forest lake

FOREST LAKE, Minn. – One week after voting to disband the city’s police department, the Forest Lake City Council voted 4-1 to approve a new law enforcement contract to the cheers of the assembled crowd.

Washington County withdrew their offer for Forest Lake to contract law enforcement through the county. As a result, the city council unanimously voted to reject the contract process, to the applause of the crowd. The city council then immediately proceeded to discussion, and a vote on the two contracts for patrol officers and separately for sergeants.

“There’s still issues with this contract, it does not establish local control,” City Council Member Mike Freer said, “There are still serious issues that I have with the agreement and unfortunately we are not able to discuss it at this point. So just know that I’m voting against it because it does not give the chief the local control he needs to run the position.”

Council Member Ed Eigner and Forest Lake Mayor Ben Winnick were the two members to change their votes and decisively approve the new contract by a 4-1 majority.

“Is everybody planning on staying through the rest of the meeting?” Winnick asked the crowd after applause died down. The question was met with laughter.

“You can learn about the pickleball court!” said Council Member Sam Husnik.

The contract was agreed to Wednesday following a walkout by about 1,300 Forest Lake students, and community petitions in support of the Forest Lake Police Department. One petition calling for Winnick to resign eclipsed 2,500 signatures.

The police department is now under contract through 2019. The deal includes a two percent pay increase in 2017 and 2018, and a three percent increase in 2019. Health care benefits for current and retired law enforcement officers are also preserved under the deal.

Video of the city council meeting is available on Forest Lake’s website.

Anders Koskinen