The quiet city of Goodhue, Minnesota, population 1,200, is facing a law enforcement crisis after its police force resigned en masse, citing inadequate wages.
Goodhue Police Chief Josh Smith submitted his resignation at a city council meeting on August 9, while another full-time officer and five part-time employees resigned two days later after learning that Smith was stepping down.
During a council meeting in July, Smith told the council that the city wasn’t providing enough money to retain officers when other agencies were willing to offer better pay amid increasing job vacancies.
“Trying to hire at $22 an hour, you’re never going to see another person again walk through those doors,” Smith told the council, adding that smaller departments pay at least $30 an hour.
The mean hourly wage for police officers in the U.S. last year was $34.32, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, putting the city of Goodhue’s wages in the bottom 25th percentile.
“There’s zero incentive to come out here to a small town, low pay, being on call, affecting your free time and everything else,” Smith said, adding that there were “zero applicants and zero prospects” for new hires in the weeks prior to the July meeting.
The resignations come amid a nationwide trend of officers — from departments of all sizes — leaving the profession, with many citing a lack of support from city officials, dangerous working conditions and low pay. Over 230 NYPD officers resigned during the first two months of 2023, a 117% jump from the 110 who left in 2021, NYPD pension data shows. In New Orleans, the city has lost so many police officers that it now faces a major fine to cover police pension losses that could top $38 million over the next 15 years.
Goodhue Mayor Ellen Anderson Buck said the resignations took city officials by surprise because the officers had been given a 5% pay increase and Smith a $13,000 raise this year, according to the Star Tribune.
“Since the resignations have been handed in by our police department, it has been recommended by our city attorney that, at this point, we need to pursue our other options,” Anderson Buck said at the top of the meeting.
If keeping officers’ pay to a minimum was the goal of city officials, it appears they have gotten their wish.
“At this point, there’s no reason to really talk about pay increases since we no longer have a police force,” Anderson Buck said.
Anderson Buck added that she had been in contact with the Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office and scheduled to meet with them in August to discuss police coverage for the city in the interim.
“I want to reiterate that we will have police coverage in the city of Goodhue — that is not an issue,” Anderson Buck said at the council meeting, noting that she has been assured the transition will be “very smooth.”
U.S. Representative Pam Altendorf (R-Minn.) added her thoughts on the dire situation, telling Fox News, “This is a reflection of a bigger problem that’s happening all over Minnesota, and that is that we have a police shortage,” she said. “It has really been fueled by the defund-the-police movement that started in 2020. What just happened in Goodhue, Minnesota, should be a warning for many areas across Minnesota and across the U.S.”