When should the city’s panic buttons be used?

Published 8:59 pm Friday, February 12, 2021

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A video has circulated over the internet this week showing an incident with Lisa Hanson, owner of The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro, when she stopped by City Hall earlier this month to drop off paperwork at the City Attorney’s Office related to her court case.

The video, made by an unidentified person, shows Hanson, accompanied by one other woman, approach the office and request to have her documents signed as an acknowledgement of receipt.

Though it is clear as the video goes on that there is a disagreement between Hanson and the city attorney and secretary — about issues such as whether the documents will be signed and even mask use — both sides remain mostly civil as they talk to each other through the glass wall in the office. There were no weapons or physical force used.

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At one point, Hanson indicates she will call law enforcement to assist her, and about two minutes into Hanson’s conversation with Sheriff Kurt Freitag, at least five Albert Lea Police Department officers respond to the office. One of the officers later can be heard saying someone had apparently pushed a panic button.

Aside from this specific situation, the incident raises questions about whether the city has a policy in place regarding when this button is used.

City Manager Ian Rigg when asked on Friday said he was not aware of any policy, and noted that each situation, and the circumstances leading up to it being used, will always be different.

While we were not present during this conversation and do not know if there were any other extenuating circumstances, from watching the video it seemed like a misuse of resources to have that many officers respond when the situation likely could have been handled by one officer — or two at most.

We encourage the city to consider further discussion on this issue, including training employees on lesser remediation measures when possible or using a lower-scaled law enforcement response.