City of Worthington to pull out of Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force

WORTHINGTON - After more than a year of discord, the Worthington Police Department will be leaving the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force. The Worthington City Council voted Monday to put in the required 90-day notice to the task force board, and at the end of the period will also cease to act as the fiscal agent for the group.

In March, a plan to restructure the board's voting rights was discussed after Murray, Nobles and Pipestone County Sheriff's Offices all wrote letters stating their intent to withdraw from the task force. Instead, the commander and board chair were replaced. A new joint powers agreement was drawn up that gave each county two votes and the Worthington Police Department one vote, removing those rights from cities that didn't have a member on the task force.

During Monday's meeting, Councilor Alan Oberloh made a motion to remove the WPD from the task force. He said the bylaw changes took voices away from the community, and that at a meeting, Worthington Police Captain Kevin Flynn, a member of the task force board, was ridiculed.

"It's time that we move on to taking care of the big cases that are affecting Worthington and the area and let the task force handle the small ounces of marijuana that they seem to be directionally headed," Oberloh said, adding that the time has come and gone for the effectiveness of the task force.

Worthington Police Chief Troy Appel, who was the original commander of the task force when it was formed 13 years ago, said there is no question that the WPD can enforce drug crime in an effective manner independently of the task force. In 2006, Appel said, the task force has an exceptional model in place, but that is no longer his assessment.

Flynn was also present at the meeting and said that for three years, the Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force was number one in the state, but as time has gone on, leadership, priorities and philosophies have changed. The people on the task force, Flynn added, are tremendously talented, but at this time it is better for the WPD and the task force to go in two different directions.

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