City of Morris disbanding police department

Local leaders in one western Minnesota city have voted to disband the police department, which has dwindled to just two officers, including the chief.

The City of Morris, like other communities across the country, is dealing with changing attitudes about policing and challenges in recruiting and retaining officers.

Morris, with a population of about 5,200 residents, has budgeted for eight full-time officers and an administrative specialist.

The Morris City Council plans to sign a contract for law enforcement services with the Stevens County Sheriff's Office and shut down a police department that has been around for more than 140 years.

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“It’s a sad day. Nobody wants to see that happen,” said Blaine Hill, city manager. “People ask, ‘How in the world could a town the size of Morris not have a police department?’ We live in a different world now.”

Nationally, law enforcement agencies are only able to fill 93 percent of available positions, according to the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum, which surveyed nearly 200 police agencies last year, the Star Tribune reported.

The profession is in the midst of a 25-year low of new officers entering the field. At the same time, officers are retiring and resigning at increased levels.

Stevens County Administrator Rebecca Young said the County Board will discuss the arrangement at its meeting Tuesday and could vote on approving an interim agreement for the remainder of the year, as well as a long-term agreement beginning Jan. 1.