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After debate, city OKs new cop

Farmington is on tap to get a new police officer in a couple of weeks, but that hiring was called into question at Monday's Farmington City Council meeting.

A review of the police department's fine revenues at the April 19 meeting showed that the PD's revenues to date were down from earlier projections, and talk turned to questions of whether that would affect the police department's overall budget. Council member Christy Jo Fogarty offered up the idea of delaying the hiring of a new police officer to replace retired officer Ted Dau.

It was a simple suggestion, but one that prompted some extensive conversation at this week's Farmington City Council meeting.

Farmington police chief Brian Lindquist is ready to hire his newest officer. The officer has been selected and the police department is conducting its background investigation on him. Lindquist's plan is to have the new officer in place in the next three to four weeks, then get him through the mandatory eight to 12 weeks of training. That way, the new officer will be ready for patrol duties by August. That is when three patrol officers leave their cars and return to their desks at Farmington's schools. Steve Kuyper, Jason Fox and Andrew Van Dorn all serve as school resource officers during the school year. When school is out, they are back on patrol, but they return to the schools when the students come back.

If the new officer is not trained in by the time the three SROs have to return to the schools, department operations could be affected. Lindquist said being short a staff member would result in more overtime hours, which would be taxing on both the officers and the city's budget.

School District 192 pays for 10 months of each resource officer's salaries. The city covers the other two. A new officer was hired in January to replace Van Dorn, who has been an SRO since March. The new officer in question is being hired to fill the vacancy on the team that was created when Dau retired in April.

It's a move that keeps Farmington's police staff at 25 full-time officers, including Lindquist. And that's maybe short of what a community the size of Farmington should have, Lindquist said. The commonly used staffing ratio is one officer per every 750 residents. Rosemount, with a population slightly larger than Farmington, has 30 officers, Lindquist said.

While most city council members supported the request to bring on the new officer sooner rather than later, council member Julie May questioned whether the new officer was actually needed.

"Don't get me wrong," May said. "I'm all for safety, but I'm also here with the responsibility of (handling) taxpayer dollars."

May suggested cutting the SRO positions back to two, and moving one of the SROs back to the patrol staff. City administrator Peter Herlofsky, is that the school district could decide to spend its money with another department to find that officer, though, and Farmington would ultimately lose 10 months of salary for an officer.

Of the three SROs, Kuyper is located in Farmington High School, and Fox and Van Dorn have each taken on a middle school. During the summer months, they'll be back on patrol, filling in for other officers who go on vacation or providing extra enforcement during events like Dew Days or the Dakota County Fair.

The dynamics of Farmington's crimes have changed over the years, Lindquist said, and that's due in large part to the enforcement measures the FPD has taken. There was a time when Farmington officers logged more than 200 DWI arrests a year. Lindquist said he will be surprised if DWI arrests reach 125 this year, simply because people know the Farmington cops are out on the streets and have a reputation for their DWI arrests.

Lindquist said the number of students in the middle schools supports assigning two resource officers. On some occasions, additional officers are called to a building to lend assistance.

The council ultimately was not willing to cut back on an SRO at a time when juvenile issues are on the rise. Instead, Lindquist was directed to continue with the hiring of the new police officer.

"I think this is a real win-win situation," said council member Steve Wilson. "I like the way this is moving along."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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