City holds press conference; answers questions
The City of Piedmont held a press conference Friday morning to discuss a proposal that would eliminate the Piedmont Police Department and bring in the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office to handle law enforcement duties. Mayor Valerie Thomerson, City Manager Jim Crosby and Undersheriff Chris West each issued a statement and answered questions.
“There has been a lot of misinformation,” Crosby said as he explained the intention of the press conference: to clarify the proposal.
According to Crosby, the idea for the proposal originated when several residents contacted the City Council and asked if they had looked to see if the sheriff’s department could operate the city’s police department at a cheaper rate. The Council went to Crosby and asked him to contact the sheriff’s office; which Crosby did.
Over the course of a few months he talked to the sheriff and received an initial proposal. Discussions continued between Crosty and the sheriff’s office after which a revised proposal was finally brought to the City Council.
That proposal indicates by switching to the sheriff’s office, the city would save 5% of its budget: approximately $300,000.
Since hearing of the proposal, many have wondered if it meant Piedmont would no longer have a law enforcement presence or what the quality of that law enforcement presence would be.
West took the podium to clarify what services the sheriff’s office would provide the city. He explained if the proposal went through, Piedmont would have eight full-time patrol deputies dedicated to the city of Piedmont 100%. Those eight officers would work in shifts out of the current Piedmont Police building.
One big difference is, in addition to the officers, Piedmont would have access to all the resources provided by the sheriff’s office, and at no additional cost. Currently, Piedmont does have access to county resources, but each time the city uses them, it costs money. For instance, every time the city needs to use a forensics lab, or bring in a K9 unit the city pays the county for that service. The proposal would give the city more law enforcement resources at hand and for less money.
Both West and Thomerson addressed the issue of whether the city or the county would receive money generated from citations issued in Piedmont. West said the eight officers would be cross-commissioned as both sheriff’s deputies and reserve police officers for the city of Piedmont. As such, the officers would be able to enforce municipal laws and the money from tickets issued in Piedmont would go to the city. Thomerson said both the municipal court and municipal clerk would remain active.
Thomerson emphasized that at this time the proposal is just that—a proposal. No decision has been made and the Council is still looking into the possibility. The Mayor welcomed Piedmont residents to give their input on the subject.
“We are open to our community and our residents,” Mayor Thomerson said. “I encourage those individuals to seek out your council member, seek out myself and let us know what you want us to do.”
The City Council will hold a meeting at 6 p.m., on Monday, September 16 in City Hall to discuss the proposal further.