Independence Council Opts to Keep Police Department

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa – Many were concerned as word circulated that the Independence City Council was considering doing away with the city's police force and contracting out duties to another agency.

Many people didn't want that. So, dozens of people crammed into the small city council chambers of the Independence City Hall Thursday night. The council doesn't typically get much attention from those living in the city. Many at the meeting, however, were up in arms and ready for a fight.

"Our town has grown, crime is on the increase and they want to take away my police department, no I don't think so," said Independence Resident Donna Hall. "Not over my dead body."

The city discussed whether to hire a consultant. If they did, that person would look into the possibility of restructuring the police department or even contracting out service to another agency, like the county.

Talks about the police department's future started months ago. Council members were concerned about lost revenue from commercial property taxes.

"Well, you start someplace ... other departments had been looked at before with different issues, but they are one of our biggest budgeted per man, so that's where they chose to go," Mayor Carl Scharff said.

The mayor specified this discussion wasn't about doing away with police protection, but how it's provided. He said city has to provide public safety for its citizens.

After about an hour of discussion, council members came to a consensus. They would not do away with police services or hire a consultant to look into it.

"I was very happy to hear some of the council people that I thought wanted the police department done away with that [they] didn't want it done away with," Independence Resident Sherry Jacobs said.

The council opted to find other ways to save money. As for doing away with the police department, Council Member Bonita Davis said Thursday's meeting was the end of the road on those discussions.

"Thank goodness the discussion came up with the consensus not to be looking further into doing away with our city police department and contracting that service," Davis said. "We will stay without police department and not to spend any money to do any kind of consulting or study effort."

Some people speculated the mayor's arrest last year could have had something to do with the potential for eliminating the department. Mayor Scharff was charged with interference with official acts, harassment of a public official and public intoxication. He was also caught on camera saying he planned to get back at the officer.

The mayor said the council's meeting had nothing to do with that incident and that the discussions about the future of the police department started well before his issues with police.
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