Ground Level: Cities in Crisis

InContext: Small cities cutting police to balance the budget

September 10, 2010

Over the past decade, 63 police departments have folded or were merged into other departments in places like Cass Lake, Hackensack, Elgin, Embarrass, Chisago City and Mora.

If cities are struggling with budgets, how should they deal with public safety spending? When is it right to reduce or eliminate police services? What's the right process to follow when making this decision?

To examine these questions, MPR News invited three panelists to an online conversation: John Pechman, Chisago City administrator who oversaw a police merger with a neighboring city; Joel Dhein, Mora city administrator, who saw the elimination of a police department; Rachel Walker, who oversees policy analysis at the League of Minnesota Cities and will give the bigger picture on cities and public safety spending.