Seven Washington County deputies will join hundreds of other police officers in Minneapolis to patrol the downtown neighborhood during next week's All-Star Game events.

Sheriff Bill Hutton said his deputies will be assigned to bicycle patrols and other law enforcement needs around Target Field as part of the Minneapolis Police Department's unified command.

"They're looking for assistance so they reached out to law enforcement across the metro area," Hutton told the County Board last week.

It's estimated that the five days of Major League Baseball revelry, from July 11 to July 16, will attract about 160,000 out-of-town fans to Minneapolis. Bars will stay open later, and events include a five-day beer-and-music block party and a massive baseball fan convention.

Washington County has a tradition of exchanging services with Minneapolis police when needs arise, Hutton said. For example, Minneapolis sent officers to Hugo to help police a tornado-damaged neighborhood in June 2008, and Washington County sent its dive team to Minneapolis to search the Mississippi River after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed on Aug. 1, 2007.

"It's that mutual thing that goes back and forth when there's a need," Hutton said, describing his deputies' participation with "countless" other police departments in Minneapolis as similar to what's done to police the State Fair.

The County Board voted 5-0 to approve a mutual aid agreement and allow Hutton to amend it as necessary. He said the county would pay for the deputies' work in Minneapolis, but no overtime would be incurred.

Such agreements have become more common in recent years as police and fire departments combine forces during emergencies and big events. Fire departments in particular cover for one another because they've had trouble recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters. □