Voters hold future of police department in their hands

Referendum question expected to be on April ballot

The future of the Black River Falls Police Department could be in the hands of residents.

As a way to cut costs, the city has discussed dissolving its police department and contracting with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department instead.

“I think the people need to speak,” said Scott Moldenhauer, a Black River Falls resident.

Some Black River Falls residents weren’t happy when the city government voted to dissolve its police force. So they petitioned to put the power in the people’s hands.

“I don’t believe it’s up to the city to make this decision,” Moldenhauer said.

Moldenhauer gathered enough signatures to get the issue put to a referendum.

In November, Mayor Ron Danielson cast the deciding vote to contract with the Jackson County sheriff for law enforcement.

“We can save $130,000. We have issues with recycling we’re trying to figure out, can we keep up recycling, can’t we? We have street issues where we don’t have enough money for streets, can we save $130,000 for that purpose? Yes. That will go a long ways, that will help a lot,” Danielson said.

“The support has been simply overwhelming,” said Tom Cooper, a BRF police officer and president of its police union.

Cooper said he is humbled seeing residents standing up for him and his fellow officers. “This community is my family,” he said.

Now Cooper will have to wait and see if enough of the people he serves vote in favor of his department.

“I feel as though the police department does a good job and I think that they need to be retained here,” Moldenhauer said.

The Black River Falls City Council will take up adding the referendum to the April general election ballot later this month. The mayor is confident it will be up to the voters in April.