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Time to put police issue to rest

A letter writer has brought up, twice within a few weeks, a suggestion that the city of Glencoe explore the option of eliminating its police department and having the McLeod County Sheriff’s Office provide law enforcement protection for the city.
This isn’t the first time the issue has been raised in the city. A quick scan of The Chronicle archives shows that the issue was brought up in 2006 at a truth-in-taxation hearing, and again in 2012. Back in 2006, The Chronicle quoted a then Glencoe City Council member as saying that the issue had been raised as early as the 1970s.
In each case, there was some exploration into the issue that ultimately led to the city deciding that it was best to keep its local department.
The most recent letter writer provided research he had done into the cost of having the Wright County Sheriff’s Office provide law enforcement services to each city in that county. The information was broken down by cost per community and cost per capita.
Those figures do make it seem as if Glencoe is paying a disproportionate amount for the city to maintain a local department as compared to what is being paid by cities in Wright County to that sheriff’s office.
But what those figures don’t tell us, however, is what level of service is being provided to each city. Is each being patrolled full time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Are there limited patrol hours? Is it just a per-call basis? Unless those factors are known, it is difficult to compare apples to apples, as the old adage goes.
And, let’s face it, it’s difficult to put a price tag on public safety. On a person’s worst day of their life, it’s the public safety officers — be it police, fire department or emergency medical services — who show up to help.
And another factor to consider: Glencoe currently is considered the fifth safest city in the state of Minnesota. It received that ranking from a private security company that collected information from the FBI on crime statistics to support its designation.
And one must also remember that once you give something up, it’s very difficult to get it back. The cost to establish a police department from scratch is unimaginable.
So if the city is going to pursue other avenues for police protection, it needs to take into consideration all the factors, not just a desire to save money.
In the past decade, the issue has come up twice, and both times was explored and a decision made to stay with the current arrangement of having a local police department.
Unless there is a large groundswell of support for trying something different — which doesn’t seem to be apparent — it’s time to let the issue rest. But if that groundswell does arise, the conversation needs to be about more than just money. It also has to take into account the level of service that the citizens of Glencoe want, and expect, from its public safety officials.