Entire police force in Goodhue quits after chief announces resignation

A police vehicle that reads "Goodhue Police"
A Goodhue police vehicle is parked at Goodhue City Hall in Goodhue on Tuesday. The entire police department in the southeast Minnesota city resigned last week after the city’s chief of police announced his resignation.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Updated: 4:24 p.m.

The entire police department in the southeast Minnesota city of Goodhue resigned last week after the city's chief of police announced his resignation. The exodus was spurred by concerns over pay and benefits.

Goodhue Mayor Ellen Anderson Buck says she will meet with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office to make sure the city continues to have law enforcement available after Aug. 24 when the officers officially leave.

During a meeting Monday night — that was originally supposed to be about police pay increases — the city council accepted the resignations of Police Chief Josh Smith and full-time officer Anthony Brecht, as well as the resignations of five part-time officers. The city has a population of about 1,300 people.

Smith did not respond to an interview request by MPR News. During a meeting last month, he told the council he was getting offers from bigger departments and he said that low pay was a big deterrent to recruiting officers to his small city:

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“Right now, currently trying to hire at $22 an hour you're never going to see another person again walk through those doors,” said Smith. “It's been three weeks now, we have zero applicants and I have zero prospects. I've called every PD around looking for the youngest guys out there looking to get into the game, and there's no one getting into the game. Those that are are getting scooped up immediately and going to the Cities."

Smith said that communities all over the state are facing similarly hard times hiring, but some of them have increased pay and benefits, which have allowed them to lure more candidates.

Luke Fischer, executive director of the League of Minnesota Cities, said the labor market for everything is really tight right now — and that's especially true for cops because they have a really hard job.

“We ask them to step up and serve their community in a big way, and they encounter a lot of challenging situations through the course of their work,” said Fischer. “Hours are tough. Our police officers are serving communities overnight. They work holidays and weekends."

He said some towns have responded to shortages by revising their pay and benefits to be more competitive within a small hiring pool. Others have contracted with the local sheriff's office for coverage. Another option, he said, is for several towns to come together and share a police force that they all pay for.

Last year, the sole officer who also served as police chief in Spring Grove, Minn., announced his retirement, and the city entered an agreement with Houston County to provide law enforcement. Also in 2022, the city of Morris disbanded its police department that had dwindled to just two officers.

At Monday’s Goodhue City Council meeting, the mayor said she’s been meeting with the sheriff and his chief deputy, who assured her that they will take over all active cases and that the transition would be smooth.

“He reassured us that there would always be coverage in the city of Goodhue,” she said. “That is not an issue. … they will be responding to calls.”