Minnesota Town’s Police Dilemma Reflects National Staffing Crisis

Goodhue, Minnesota, a quaint town southeast of Minneapolis, finds itself in a precarious situation. In an unexpected turn of events, the entire police force of Goodhue resigned in the last week, citing unsatisfactory compensation. This unexpected development further compounds a growing national issue of police departments facing critical staffing shortages.

Police Chief Josh Smith captured the essence of the predicament: “This has been three weeks now, we have zero applicants, and I have zero prospects. If you want to keep the PD and this is something we want to continue going with, something needs to change dramatically and drastically, and it’s got to happen now.”

Low pay seems to be the heart of the matter. In a frank discussion with the city council, Chief Smith mentioned the struggle to hire at $22 an hour, contrasting with smaller departments willing to pay at least $30 an hour. This concern comes despite the council granting officers a 5% pay increase and Smith himself receiving a $13,000 raise earlier this year.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t an isolated incident restricted to Goodhue. Morris, another Minnesota town, disbanded its police department after facing similar challenges. While expressing surprise at the mass resignations, Goodhue Mayor Ellen Anderson Buck acknowledged, “We’re not the first, and we won’t be the last.”

Indeed, a national trend is emerging. Since 2020, police departments across the United States have witnessed an alarming exodus of officers and record-low new applicants, leading to critical staffing deficiencies. In 2022, Baltimore lost nearly 300 officers, bringing the department to unsustainable staffing levels. Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, a spokesperson for the National Police Association, echoed the concern, saying, “We are at a point now where almost every large and mid-sized police department is having difficulty recruiting new police officers to the profession. It’s a crisis.”

This isn’t merely about numbers. The impact resonates at the community level. Concerned Baltimore citizens are imploring officials to act, linking inadequate police staff to rising crime rates. In Seattle, fewer detectives are available for serious cases. Massachusetts State Police had to shift troopers from investigating homicides to street patrol. In Kansas City, 911 callers are facing record-long wait times.

Josh Blackford, a former VA police officer, decided that the risk was no longer worth the reward. He recounted, “I worked the whole year, I quit January 4 of this year and my box one was $49,000 after being a cop for six years, and that was just, that alone, it 100 percent solidified my decision to leave.”

The underlying factors go beyond pay. Officers are battling burnout, plummeting morale, and dwindling support from state and local leaders.

Yet, amid these challenges, Goodhue remains resilient. Mayor Buck is optimistic about the town’s capacity to bounce back, asserting that the city would continue to operate a police force. The Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office will temporarily patrol the town and take over active criminal cases.

While uncertainty looms, Councilman Chris Schmit aptly summarizes the sentiment: “They provided excellent safety and security to our community. And the small-town policing that they did, we want that back.”