Forest Lake HS students walk out to protest police disbanding

Students at Forest Lake High School are holding a walkout Tuesday afternoon to protest the city council’s vote Monday night to disband the Forest Lake Police Department and contract policing services from the Washington County Sheriff's Office. WATCH VIDEO

The city says the decision will save more than $350,000 per year and increase police service from its current 25 positions to 27, but the move was met with several months of outspoken opposition from the city's residents.

"The savings is definitely not worth the loss," said Councilwoman Mara Bain, who voted against the contract.

The Forest Lake City Council was split 2 to 2 in Monday night’s vote, with Mayor Ben Winnick acting as the tie breaker, voting in favor of the contract.

A petition to recall Mayor Winnick was circulating Tuesday, with nearly 1,500 signatures.

Hundreds of residents packed City Hall for the vote on Monday night. At multiple meetings, people have given hours worth of public comment, voicing their support to keep their local officers. Forest Lake residents responded to the decision with boos, tears, and devastation.

"It’s our children it’s our future, it’s our community, this is our identity, this is our local control," said Jon Vette, a Forest Lake resident. "There are countless reasons to keep the police forest lake police department, very minimal reasons to disband them."

According to the proposal, the sheriff's office would dedicate one commander, three sergeants, 15.5 patrol deputies, three investigators, three school resource officers, and one office support to the City of Forest Lake.

The total adjusted annual cost would be about $2,897,714.52. The office also predicts there would be one-time implementation costs of $87,577.50. The full proposal can be found here.

In order to finalize the disbanding of the department and the contract with the Washington County Sheriff's Office, the contract has to be approved by the Board of Commissioners.