The Minnesota State Fair has reinstated its police department, the fair’s manager announced Monday, a move that comes after months of uncertainty about fair security.
The new department will be led by Commander Ron Knafla of the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office and, like in years past, will bring in sworn law enforcement officers from across the state to help at fair time.
The last State Fair police chief retired in May, and fair officials decided at the time to disband their small police force and hire an outside agency to handle security.
The move set off a last-minute scramble, with the Ramsey County Board eventually allowing Sheriff Bob Fletcher to take over on a contract that runs through the end of this year.
The board’s approval was granted reluctantly, with board members saying the State Fair wasn’t the county’s responsibility alone and that the county was taking on too much liability by providing security services at the fair.
The board also was irked with Fletcher, who had begun negotiating with the Minnesota State Agricultural Society — the organizers of the State Fair — to take over fair security without first asking the board about the deal.
A Ramsey County Board workshop scheduled for Nov. 2 was supposed to bring Fletcher to the board to provide a report on how the fair security went this year, including a breakout of the deal’s finances. Fletcher told the board he wouldn’t attend the meeting, however, and Board Chair Toni Carter canceled the workshop as a result.
Carter followed up with a Nov. 4 letter to Gov. Tim Walz explaining the board’s frustration with Fletcher, saying there’s no agreement between the board and the State Agricultural Society for security services in 2022.
“Complicating this matter is the unwillingness of Sheriff Fletcher to personally engage with the County Board in the important discussions needed to resolve questions and concerns about continuing these agreements,” she wrote to Walz. “A future date for this workshop has not been set and is contingent upon a commitment from the Sheriff that he will participate.”