The city of Falcon Heights took another step toward crafting a policing partnership with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday night.
The city has been moving toward a contract with the county after its previous policing agreement with neighboring St. Anthony was ended in July, an action that came in the tumultuous period after a St. Anthony officer shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights in July 2016.
Earlier Wednesday, during a routine appearance at the St. Paul City Council meeting, Ramsey County Sheriff Jack Serier said that the county has signed an agreement with Falcon Heights to take over its policing beginning on Jan. 1, 2018. The pact won't be final until the Falcon Heights council approves it, which is expected during the next council meeting on Oct. 25.
"I don't anticipate any issues," said Mayor Peter Lindstrom.
On Wednesday night, the City Council held an hourlong listening session featuring Ramsey County Sheriff's Cmdr. Rich Clark, who oversees the county's contract services with its cities.
The potential contract comes in the wake of events that included the group Falcon Heights We Can Do Better presenting the council in April with a 411-signature petition demanding that the city end its policing contract with St. Anthony. The contract in effect between the two cities had an opt-out clause that either city could invoke by July 15.
A couple of days before that deadline, the St. Anthony council unanimously passed a resolution that formalized termination of the contract, which otherwise would have not have expired until 2019.
City administrator Sack Thongvanh told the council on Wednesday that the city attorney has reviewed the contract and that "everything looks good."
Lindstrom suggested that meet-and-greets be held to let citizens get to know Serier and his staff. One should be at City Hall and another at an apartment complex, Lindstrom suggested.
Thongvanh displayed an online community crime map from the Sheriff's Office, which would serve as "a self-help tool for residents" in Falcon Heights.
Council Member Randy Gustafson suggested that a citizens' academy be held so city residents could learn how deputies police their city. "It's also a good way to get residents involved," he said.
Clark said that once the contract was in place, deputies would attend council meetings, have daily or weekly conversations with city staff members, and participate in community events.
"It's really up to you. We don't want to feel like just a contract," Clark said. "We don't want deputies to feel like strangers down here. … We will provide the same quality of service to everyone."
Lindstrom asked Clark what would happen if the city had a "problem with one of the deputies."
Clark said that he would abide by any pertinent contracts if that happened, but "I could [pull deputies] from the area."
If the contract is approved, Falcon Heights would become the eighth community getting law enforcement services from Ramsey County. Currently, the county has contracts with Arden Hills, Gem Lake, Little Canada, North Oaks, Shoreview, Vadnais Heights and White Bear Township.
Staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report.