The small city of Motley, Minnesota, is facing the dire possibility of having its police department disband completely after Police Chief Jason Borash and Officer Cody Holtz resigned over a salary dispute.
The development comes as Motley joins several other Minnesota cities — including Goodhue, Morris and Clara City — to suffer severe police shortages over the past several years.
According to officials, the situation reached a breaking point during a special session of the Motley City Council, when Mayor Mike Schmidt announced the acceptance of Borash’s resignation, set to take effect on September 22. Holtz had already left the agency in June for the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office.
In his resignation letter, Borash acknowledged the problem of staffing shortages facing law enforcement agencies across the country, called for higher pay and bid farewell to the town he served.
“I am proud to have served the residents and community of Motley over the last 8 years, and how well my past officers of this department have served this community. It was a very difficult decision for me to leave the department, and I have been deeply touched and humbled by the outcrying support of the community and its residents,” Borash wrote.
The exodus of both the police chief and the department’s lone officer left Motley with the prospect of having no police force to serve the town of 680 residents.
The primary issue at the heart of the crisis is the debate over police salaries. While Borash earns over $100,000, the figure also includes health and other benefits. In actuality, the city’s pay structure caps all salaries at approximately $80,000, leaving officers making just over $21 an hour.
This fact drew criticism from residents, who argued that it places Motley at a significant disadvantage when competing for law enforcement talent with neighboring cities like Little Falls, Brainerd and Staples.
During a heated City Council meeting, one resident shouted: “Maybe you should pay them better,” echoing the sentiments of others who urged the city to offer competitive compensation packages to retain and attract police officers.
Mayor Mike Schmidt acknowledged the burden on taxpayers posed by raises, but emphasized the necessity of investing in public safety. The mayor indicated that finding a replacement for Borash by his September 22 resignation date was unlikely, prompting the city to initiate a search for an interim chief.
“If we don’t have an interim chief, we’ll have to vacate the police department office and utilize the services through the county and the state,” Schmidt stated.
The Motley City Council is scheduled to convene another special session to discuss potential raises for both the chief and the full-time officer in an effort to avert the disbandment of the police department.
Schmidt also affirmed the city’s commitment to ensuring public safety, saying, “My hope is that as a council, we see to it to increase wages, not only for our law enforcement department, but in addition to all of our departments as well.”
Meanwhile, the council is also looking to acquire a second squad car to attract new talent.
“You might automatically think small city, two officers, you have two squad cars — we haven’t,” Schmidt said. “What we’ve learned is without two squads, when one is out of commission, it’s difficult to do the job.”