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Forest Lake students walk out of class to protest city scrapping police force

A petition to recall the mayor who cast the decisive vote has also been launched.
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Students staged a walkout on Tuesday in protest at a decision to disband the Forest Lake Police Department taken by the city council.

The council voted 3-2 on Monday to contract policing services from the Washington County Sheriff's Department, saving the city $387,000-a-year and thus scrapping its own police department.

The decision was greeted with boos from the hundreds who packed into the meeting, FOX 9 reports, and on Tuesday students from Forest Lake High School walked out of classes at 1:15 p.m. and marched on the city council chambers.

The protest group has created a Twitter account FLHS Loves FLPD, with the march streamed by the local protest group We Love Our Cops on Facebook.

A message from high school officials to parents said the protest was not sanctioned by the school, but the school wouldn't stop students from exercising their First Amendment rights.

A petition on Change.org has also been created encouraging the recall of Forest Lake Mayor Ben Winnick, who cast the decisive vote on Monday.

Just this past September, when running for mayor, Winnick wrote on Facebook: "I support FL Police, making sure they have the equipment and resources they need to keep the community safe." The post has since been removed but it still exists on search results.

Those opposing the move want the city to keep their local officers, even though contracting with Washington County will add two extra officers to the city's beat.

Winnick made a motion during the meeting that Washington County Sheriff's Office should show a preference to hiring Forest Lake PD officers to fill the positions, but this is not binding, the Star Tribune reports.

Monday's decision has to be ratified by the Washington County Board of Commissioners before it goes ahead.

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