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Minnesota Town Disbands Police Department Amid Budget Woes

Graham Perdue
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The Moose Lake Police Department will cease to exist after the city council voted on Wednesday to disband the Minnesota town’s public safety agency. This continued the state’s alarming trend of law enforcement agencies simply shutting down.

Local leaders cited budget constraints and staffing issues in making the radical choice. Moose Lake will instead contract with the nearby Carlton County Sheriff’s Department to provide four deputies for patrol duties.

City Administrator Elissa Owens explained, “At this time, it is my responsibility to ensure facilitation of a contract with the Carlton County Sheriff’s Office that is in the best interest of the residents of Moose Lake.”


Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said the department is capable of providing protection to the town’s citizens.

Lake observed, “We would have four deputies that are assigned full time to the city, just like you get now. So you would get to know them, you know, in the schools. You’d see them around the schools, you see them around businesses, you see them around communities.”

The sheriff noted this is not a particularly novel situation in Minnesota. Sheriff’s departments have been contracted in recent years to provide protection for local citizens. 

The council asserted this option will be cheaper than maintaining a three-person department. It was just last fall that Moose Lake decided to trim its force from five to three members in order to be able to properly fund the police.


Two officers resigned before last year’s reduction, and two more left in January. Only the Moose Lake police chief remains on the job.

The city was to spend $900,000 of its $2.8 million budget for 2024 on the police department. Public safety costs increased 28% this year through changes in the police health insurance program. 

Several small Minnesota cities are struggling with public safety responsibilities due to a shortage of officers in the state. The area was the flashpoint for 2020’s radical “defund the police” movement after the death of George Floyd.

A staggering 35 municipal police departments have dissolved since 2016, though some of that number predated 2020’s violence. Roughly 400 remain intact.

The Goodhue Police Department folded when its entire force resigned last August. The chief cited low pay and the inability to recruit new officers.