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Council pushes rewind button on resolution

A single sentence in a resolution supporting law enforcement has brought significant attention to Red Wing and led City Council members to take a step back, calling for more discussion.

The council voted Monday to reconsider the resolution it approved at its last meeting, which included a provision backing the National Fraternal Order of Police’s efforts to expand the federal hate crimes law to protect police.

Council member Lisa Bayley requested the reconsideration Monday.

“I felt that the main impact or main reason we voted on that resolution and what we discussed at length was support for the police and support for our local law enforcement for funding and support for the work that they do,” she said. But what has been highlighted is the federal hate crimes change.

Bayley said the council has made it a policy in the past to discuss whether it should take a position on specific state or federal issues, but that didn’t happen with this resolution.

“I think this matter should be referred to the Human Rights Commission before we take a position on something this important,” she said.

Details on the reconsideration, such as any revisions or other action, would come at a future council meeting.

Comments have flooded council members and city officials, including on the city and police department’s Facebook pages, since the Sept. 28 vote.

Mayor Dan Bender said many of the comments he has received have had an “us-versus-them flavor.”

“In Red Wing there shouldn’t be a ‘them,’ it’s just us, and it’s everybody here in town working together for the good of the community. We don’t need any more division,” he said. “My fear is that what we have unintentionally done by passing this resolution (on Sept. 28) is done nothing to help mend that division, and that perhaps our really well-meant support of the Red Wing Police Department might be unintentionally undermining that support in the community.”

Bayley said she wants the council to have the discussion and to decide intentionally whether to support the federal hate crimes change.

“I don’t think anyone sitting up here doesn’t support the police,” Council President Dean Hove said. “It’s just the wording of that last sentence I think is something that we really need to reconsider.”

Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman said the department values collaboration with the community. He highlighted the community policing program and noted the avenues citizens have to voice concerns and complaints against officers or the department. He said Red Wing’s department, and others nationwide, work to be accountable.

“So when you express support of law enforcement, you are expressing support for the agencies and the officers that do the right thing,” Pohlman said.

Pohlman acknowledged that the numbers of officers killed by gunfire in the line of duty is down, but said attacks against law enforcement are at an all-time high.

He said any changes would be made after careful consideration and consulting with citizens.

“None of these things would be executed or implemented without great detail and consideration of other groups involved, but I believe the end result must be that the needless killing on all groups comes to an end.”

Council members tabled a request to the area’s state lawmakers to introduce a bill considering crimes against peace officers in Minnesota a “crime of bias” and to adequately fund a program that provides reimbursement for protective vests.

It will come up again when the original resolution of support is discussed.

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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