Top 10: Farmington approves separation agreement with police chief
Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.
A firestorm of public support wasn't enough to save Farmington Police Chief Brian Lindquist's job after City Council voted 3-2 to approve the separation agreement in a heated meeting Aug. 20.
For more than an hour, community members spoke favorably of Lindquist.
More than 2,500 "votes" had been captured online, and for days residents rallied on social media and asked for explanations from council members.
Council approved the agreement with a split vote. Mayor Todd Larson and Terry Donnelly voted "strongly against" while Jason Bartholomay, Robyn Craig and Katie Bernhjelm voted for separation agreement. Lindquist led the department for nearly 12 years.
Back in May, Administrator David McKnight notified Lindquist that the city would be moving in a new direction and looking for a new chief.
Bernhjelm said a police study found the department was short staffed and Lindquist requested more patrol positions and an additional captain's position.
When City Council instructed all city department heads to cut unnecessary spending and find a way to cut $10,000 from their budgets, Bernhjelm said the council did not hear from Lindquist.
After the Aug. 20 vote, residents appeared angry and some cried out. Lindquist came to the podium and asked the community to respect the council's vote and maintain peace.
"I cannot begin to thank everyone who has emailed me and called me, and I appreciate that immensely but I am a public servant and I serve you and I have enjoyed serving you for 20 years, and you will always have a place here (pointing to his heart). I wear the badge to represent my profession and the patch to represent my town," Lindquist said after the vote. "I haven't tarnished any of them and I won't do it tonight and I don't want you to."
In replacement of Lindquist is interim chief Gary Rutherford. Since being appointed acting chief, Rutherford said his primary focus is keeping everyone focused on looking forward — what is best for citizens and the city.
Rutherford has more than 22 years serving in public safety as a police officer. He joined Farmington police in April 2002 and prior to that, he worked for Northfield police. He was promoted to sergeant in 2007.
After community members showed up to gather information and fight the separation agreement with the city and former police chief Lindquist in August, Rutherford said he was aware how the community strongly supports the police department.
"I have always, always bragged about the relationship we have had with the citizens of Farmington so to have seen it come out with the situation with Chief Lindquist I was not surprised by it," Rutherford said. "My goal right now is to continue to build the relationship with community and nurture that and even strengthen that."
Farmington Mayor Todd Larson said the council's decision to move ahead with hiring a full-time, permanent police chief would most likely be decided after the election in November, but a decision has yet to be made.