GOODHUE, Minn. — A small Minnesota town will soon be without a police department, an exodus spurred by low pay for the chief and his officers.
Goodhue Police Chief Josh Smith and one other officer are still on the force, but only until their resignations become official on Aug. 23, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Smith submitted his resignation at a City Council meeting Aug. 9, while another full-time officer and five part-time employees resigned Friday after learning that Smith was stepping down.
“This is heartbreaking to us,” Goodhue Mayor Ellen Anderson Buck said Monday night after an emergency council meeting. Goodhue, in southeastern Minnesota, has about 1,300 residents.
The council will seek extra enforcement from the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office while town officials work to rebuild the department.
Smith did not respond to calls for comment. He told the council in July that the city wasn't offering enough money to retain officers when other places were willing to offer better pay amid increasing job vacancies. Goodhue also hasn't matched other cities' incentives such as sign-on bonuses, which Smith said affected recruiting.
“Trying to hire at $22 an hour, you’re never going to see another person again walk through those doors,” Smith told the council. He said smaller departments pay at least $30 an hour.
The mayor said the mass resignations were surprising because the council gave officers a 5% increase and Smith a $13,000 raise earlier this year.
Goodhue is the latest small Minnesota community that's struggling to keep up with law enforcement demands amid increasing budget costs and an ongoing shortage of officers.
Last year, the police department in Morris was disbanded after a turbulent few months during which the department eroded to just the chief and one other officer. The town now contracts with the Stevens County Sheriff's Office.