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Entire police force of US city in Minnesota resigns over low wages

This picture shows a US police patrol car parked in front of City Hall in Goodhue, Minnesota on July 14, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Star Tribune)

The entire police department of Minnesota state's Goodhue city has quit work over a pay dispute with the mayor of the Upper Midwestern US city.

Goodhue Police Department -- consisting of a chief, a full-time officer, and five part-time officers – entirely resigned on Monday in protest to a long-lasting pay dispute with the small town's mayor Ellen Anderson-Buck.

The small town's mayor claimed she was “blindsided” by the resignation of the entire police department.

However, the mayor and City Council unanimously did approve the resignation letters from all of the police department’s officers, including the chief.

They also approved plans for the mayor to meet with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office to discuss a possible partnership to ensure the city’s emergency calls are covered.

Goodhue Police Chief Josh Smith had reportedly handed his letter of resignation to City Council late last week, and the rest of the officers followed suit in solidarity with their chief.

“Everybody knows everybody. This is heartbreaking to us,” the mayor said, adding, the town was resilient and its community would move on.

“We are going to rise above this, and I’m confident that we will have a police department again.”

Anderson-Buck said Chief Smith and one other full-time officer will continue their duties until August 24 when they are due to leave Goodhue Police Department (PD).

She said after that the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office will take over police calls and investigations until the issue is resolved.

"They will respond to calls,” she said, giving assurance to worried locals that Sheriff’s Office will fill in for the time being so the town does not descend into lawlessness.

Anderson-Buck reiterated that the small town would have police coverage against outlaws. “That’s no problem."

"I want to reiterate that we will have police coverage in the city of Goodhue. That is not an issue," Anderson-Buck said at the council meeting, adding that she has been assured the transition will be "very smooth."

Anderson-Buck claimed the entire police department's resignation "is not unusual — it does happen." “We’re not the first, and we won’t be the last!”

However, she was at pains to tell the council that rebuilding the department will be an "uphill battle".

According to a former Goodhue police officer, Police Chief Smith had repeatedly raised the issue of pay, calling on the town officials to increase the salary and make better recruitment efforts. However, Smith's requests had been ignored by them.

Goodhue Police Chief Josh Smith (C) in a photo with other officers.

In this regard, Chief Smith said there is no end in sight in terms of finding a solution as he had not had a single applicant to fill the vacancies. “No one is in the game.”

He cited poor pay, which is $22 an hour in Goodhue, as the sole reason for the mass resignation.

"So right now with our current — trying to hire at $22 an hour, you're never going to see another person again walk through those doors. That's it," Smith said. "Unless you guys do a dramatic change."

“If you want to keep PD, and this is something we want to continue with, something drastic and drastic has to change, and it has to happen now,” he warned the city council last week.

Smith had indicated his intention to resign weeks earlier when he told town officials he was unable to find new recruits and was losing prospects for major cities.

He told the city council that he had been personally offered a job in a city and that his own efforts to find more officers for Goodhue fell on deaf ears.

"I called every police force to ask if the youngest boys would be involved. No one is involved,” he said.

Residents criticized the police loss, with one saying she was “floored” by the news.

Goodhue business owner Lydia Strusz said in case of a threat, “It’s just unnerving to know that they may not be there.”

Another said the police will be missed in the community, which had a low crime rate due to their efforts.

"I can probably speak for everyone when I say they have provided our community with excellent safety and security. And the small town policing they did, we want that back.”

Goodhue has fewer than 1,500 residents and is a little more than an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities.

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