Independence City Council to keep Police Department - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UPDATED: Independence City Council keeps police department for now

Posted: Updated: March 7, 2013 07:48 AM

The City of Independence decided to keep the city's police department, at least for now, during a 90-minute public workshop Thursday night at City Hall.

It was decided that the city will not pay for a consultant to look into cost savings at the police department unless a council member requests it to be brought up for discussion.

"The whole town is up in arms thinking that we want to get rid of the police department," said Independence Mayor Carl Scharff.

The Buchanan County Sheriff's Office, however, was opposed to the idea from the beginning.

The Sheriff said 42 percent of calls in Buchanan County fall within city limits, and the Sheriff's Office simply doesn't have the manpower to handle all of them. 

Scharff said recent restructuring of the police department makes it timely to hold a discussion about re-evaluating whether the officers are needed, or if merging with the Buchanan County Sheriff's Office would help save the city money.

"I'd like to see a merger or whatever to be a more efficient police department," said Scharff.

Scharff denied rumors that he has a personal vendetta against the police department after being arrested for public intoxication in November of 2012.

He said he investigated hiring a consultant to look into cost savings at the police department after council members approached him.

But folks at Thursday's meeting thought otherwise.

"It's a personal issue with one person that's mad at the police department, so he's just trying to get the whole police department out of here," said Sherry Jacobs, who said she has been an Independence resident for 53 years.

Council member Bonnie Davis says the council has budgeted up to $8,000 that could pay for a feasibility study. This study would help the city decide whether to keep the police department or pay contracted county deputies.

Now the city just needs to know if the residents of Independence would be interested in the feasibility study.

"We want to be transparent and make sure the community knows what the city is doing," Davis said.

City Manager Steven Diers said the city hasn't done a lot of background or research on the issue, but that Thursday's meeting is preliminary.

"City budgets are getting tighter and tighter and we're looking for ways to save money," said Diers.

Diers said police officers were not specifically invited to the meeting, but said they would be welcome to attend along with the public.

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