Winnebago starts search for police chief

Local News

Winnebago City Council approved the resignation of Police Chief Eric Olson during a special meeting prior to their regular meeting Tuesday night.

Now, Olson needs the approval of Faribault County commissioners before beginning his new job as a deputy.

Olson seeking a different job may have raised the eyebrows of some council members.

Afterall, council members gave Olson a pay raise and officer wages were increased to be competitive with other departments.

Last month, they decided to keep the police department after holding several public hearings to determine if the city should pay another law enforcement agency for services.

At that time, Olson told council members two applicants were going through background checks to fill two full-time officer positions.

So, why did Olson decide it was time to leave and look for another job?

The number one issue was job stability,” says Olson. “You see what is happening to other police departments around the state. But, by state statute a county must maintain a sheriff’s department.”

Morris, a town with a population of 5,100 residents, dissolved its police department last year after continued departure of officers.

In Goodhue, the police chief, an officer and five part-time officers resigned over issues with pay and benefits last month. And, city officials in Motley and Clara City are also facing the possibility of not having a police force.

Mayor Scott Robertson and the council reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining police coverage and services to residents.

Our intent is to keep this department with a new police chief and try to get to a total of three people in the department,” says Robertson.

Olson agreed to serve as interim police chief through Sept. 20 and the council voted to have him serve as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) until a police chief is hired.

State law requires law enforcement agencies to have a CLEO to perform administrative duties, which allows Olson to be involved in the hiring process for police chief and officers.

Chief deputy Scott Adams says the 11 deputies in his department will not have scheduled patrolling duties in Winnebago, however, the Sheriff’s Department will provide some coverage.

Phone calls into the police department will automatically be routed to county dispatchers and Adams also gave council members his cell phone number.

In addition, Olson, Adams and deputy Jacob Pettit reside in Winnebago.

During the regular meeting, council members had a long discussion on how much to pay the new police chief. They agreed to advertise the position on the Minnesota POST board website with an hourly range of $33.25 to $36.50 and pay depending on the applicant’s experience.

Council members thanked and praised Olson for his work and dedication during his nine years with the department.

Councilman Paul Eisenmenger says one year Olson did not take a pay raise so his officers could get one.

You did a good job with our police department and I appreciate everything you did,” he says. “I think you had Winnebago in your best interest.”

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