Falcon Heights officials say the city won't renew its contract for law enforcement services with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.
The contract between the Sheriff's Office and the small St. Paul suburb surrounding the State Fairgrounds expires at the end of the year. The city and the Sheriff's Office traded letters over the past week, formally agreeing to terminate the arrangement that has been in place since late 2017.
The city pays $1.3 million a year to the Sheriff's Office for services.
"The city does not have issue with the Sheriff's Office or the services we have received," City Administrator Jack Linehan said at a March 22 City Council meeting. The council at that meeting directed Linehan to notify the Sheriff's Office of the city's intention to look elsewhere for law enforcement services.
In his response, Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said the move "is in everyone's best interest," noting that providing patrol, enforcement, crime prevention, investigative and other services for the city of about 5,000 people was never a perfect fit.
Falcon Heights does not border any of the other communities the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office serves, and that requires deputies to travel long distances, sometimes at high speeds with lights and sirens activated, when responding to emergencies, Fletcher said.
"The lack of a contiguous service area requires additional staffing to ensure deputy and resident safety," Fletcher said.
This is not the first time Falcon Heights has exercised its option to end the contract, which requires that either party provide a nine-month notice. In 2021, the city and the Sheriff's Office mutually agreed to part ways. But Falcon Heights was unable to find another partner to provide law enforcement services and remained with the Sheriff's Office.
It was not immediately clear where Falcon Heights will go from here. The city will work with a consultant to explore options for a long-term law enforcement contract, according to a city newsletter posted online Monday.
Fletcher outlined possible options, including contracting with St. Paul, Roseville or the Minnesota State Fair police departments. The city could also renew a contract with neighboring St. Anthony. Falcon Heights severed its service agreement with St. Anthony after former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in July 2016.
Yanez was acquitted of one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.
Falcon Heights could also form its own police department or opt for a hybrid model. The city could be responsible for some police services, such as patrolling, and contract with outside agencies for other law enforcement services, such as investigations.
Falcon Heights will resume its contract with the Sheriff's Office if no suitable options are found, the city said.
"Whichever option you select, please know that the Sheriff's Office stands ready to assist you," Fletcher wrote.