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St. Paul Park starts search to bring police force to full-strength

St. Paul Park is set to begin a search for a police officer to replace a longtime department member who departed last month to head the Cottage Grove Fire Department.

The St. Paul Park City Council directed city staff to begin searching for a ninth police officer at a workshop Monday after Rick Redenius, a 12-year veteran of the force, left to assume the top fire post in Cottage Grove in November. City Administrator Kevin Walsh said the city would post the position this week and expects to hire a replacement by March.

The Council rejected an informal plan put forward by Mayor Keith Franke that would have back-filled the vacant police position with a part-time officer and a community service officer in an effort to cut costs.

"I think as a mayor or council member I would be remiss in my duty if I didn't try to find out how to save money," Franke said.

His fellow council members disagreed, however, and one police official told the Council that not replacing Redenius with a full-time officer "would be radical for us."

"I think a part-time officer is a bad idea," police Sgt. Randy Otto, speaking in place of Chief Mike Monahan, told council members. The ninth full-time officer, he said, "is crucial for us staying on the same path" and offering residents the same level of service.

Council member Tim Jones said he agreed with efforts to save money - but not from the city's police budget.

"Public safety is no place to cut," he said.