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Chief applies brakes to driver program

Red Wing has halted its driver diversion program in light of questions and recent developments.

Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman said he expects the issue to receive a lot of attention in the coming months, between discussions stemming from a recent Wabasha County ruling and the coming legislative session.

On Jan. 6, a judge ruled that Wabasha County’s driver diversion program is illegal under Minnesota law.

While it raised questions, the ruling doesn’t mean similar programs, like Red Wing’s, are necessarily impacted, city attorney Amy Mace said.

“At this point our program is legal,” Council President Lisa Bayley said. “We don’t have any decision that it’s not.”

For example, Wabasha County kept all the proceeds from the program fees rather than making payments to the state, a key sticking point that wasn’t an issue in Red Wing, Bayley noted.

But Red Wing council members and staff said Monday it likely would be better to end the program until the issue can be addressed statewide.

“Certainly the conservative approach would be to stop the program and see how it all plays out,” Mace said.

The City Council did not vote on the move, but came to a consensus supporting Pohlman’s decision to end Red Wing’s program.

“I think if we continue to do this we’re setting ourselves up for an unnecessary lawsuit,” Council member Peggy Rehder said.

Pohlman said the city’s program is very similar to Goodhue County’s, which officials suspended last week.

The program gives motorists a one-time option to take an educational course rather than having a citation for certain traffic violations on their records.

Pohlman said there are number of concerns with the program at this point, including a lack of consistency statewide, extra time involved for law enforcement officers and the fee structure.

Council members said they will keep an eye any legislative developments and discussions in the next session about the program.

Red Wing started its program in the summer of 2010, according to a report from Pohlman.

The class already scheduled for Wednesday will be the final one, the council agreed.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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