RED WING -- The City Council will again debate on Monday whether to approve the police and fire departments’ proposed subscription to a company called Lexipol.
Lexipol defines itself as “the only comprehensive risk management solution” for city and state officials including police and sheriff departments, fire departments, corrections facilities, local governments and emergency medical services.
The company’s website states, “we provide the entire solution — policies, training, grant assistance and news and analysis.”
Lexipol has become a partner for agencies and municipalities across the country. Currently, more than 3,000 public safety agencies work with Lexipol.
Police Chief Roger Pohlman proposed the subscription in December.
Pohlman told the council, “My desire is to stay current with our present desire to be as transparent as possible. We’ve got our policies currently located online and my desire would be to do the same thing and have the policies all posted online.”
Council President Dean Hove replied that he wants to ensure the council’s ability to read any new or changed local policies before their implementation. Hove said at the Dec. 14 meeting, “I know there’s always two sides of a story, but I read something today about Lexipol that really disturbed me a lot.”
Council member Erin Buss echoed Hove’s apprehension about the company. American Civil Liberties Union has taken issue with Lexipol, specifically immigration policy work.
"I think if the ACLU has some concerns I think we should as well, especially as we’re trying to be a more equitable community,” Buss said.
The American Civil Liberties Union is not the only organization to raise questions about Lexipol. For example, a 2018 Texas Law Review article published by two UCLA professors looked at the company and its practices. The paper states in part, “the process by which Lexipol develops its policies is not consistent with the approach recommended by many policing experts who have emphasized the importance of transparent policymaking, with opportunities for public input. Lexipol does not disclose information about who is making Lexipol’s policies and what interests are prioritized in their process.”
Council members then discussed the possible subscription to Lexipol for over an hour during their annual two-day workshop Jan. 22-23. Pohlman discussed the ACLU article and stated, “Like all good businesses that adapt over time and try to improve their business, it sounds to me like Lexipol has taken steps to address that.”
During the workshop, Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie and Goodhue County Sheriff Marty Kelly spoke about their experiences with Lexipol.
Leslie stated that the company ensures that his department’s policies remain updated as state and federal laws change and court rulings impact procedures.
“I want to let you know the Lexipol updates our policy manuals, give us updates about twice a month. I don't want to challenge Roger, or the chief learner, but I doubt they're updating their manuals twice. So these are organic beings, because the world changes so fast," Leslie said.
The main reason that the City Council has not made a decision on a subscription is language in the company’s policy that states all of its policies and derivative work on those policies by municipalities are owned by the company. This could be an issue, especially since the city created the Policy Advisory Team in 2020 and that team is working with the police department to update policies.
Council President Becky Norton sees where a company like Lexipol could be helpful for the city, but she is hesitant to partner with Lexipol.
“I see a lot of concerns being shared about Lexipol’s lack of transparency and how they make their policies and how they protect them and how they're copyrighted," she explained. "They don't really welcome sharing of those policies between different departments.”
Pohlman said he addressed the concern about copyrighting on a conference call with Lexipol.
"I said ‘at the end of the day, point blank, to the point, whose policies are these? Are they Lexipol policies or are they the Red Wing Police Department's policies?' And they said, even though it's copyrighted, they said these are your policies. If you decide to leave Lexipol in the future you keep your policies that you've edited and developed over the years, that Lexipol does not take them back."
As the Lexipol portion of the workshop came to a close, council members still expressed concerned with the issues that Norton raised. Originally, it was proposed to bring the Lexipol conversation to the City Council's Monday, Feb. 8, meeting, but members agreed that was too soon.
The next step for the Lexipol decision will be a conversation with the city’s attorney. Fire Chief Mike Warner also will participate in conversations.
Kay Kuhlmann, the council administrator, explained, “The first thing we'll do is go and work with our attorney and bring information back through the status report to just say ‘here's what we found out about this.’ And then at some point when Mike and Roger and I feel like we have enough information to bring forward, we'll bring something back.”