Save Our Police movement organized in JacksonJACKSON — Not willing to let them go without a fight, Dave Schmidt and his wife Beth are working to organize a Save Our Police movement, gathering signatures for a petition asking the Jackson City Council not to disband the Jackson Police Department.
JACKSON — Not willing to let them go without a fight, Dave Schmidt and his wife Beth are working to organize a Save Our Police movement, gathering signatures for a petition asking the Jackson City Council not to disband the Jackson Police Department.
The council voted two weeks ago to go ahead with working on a contract between the city and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office to contract law enforcement service through the county. Concerned about budgets and the economy, the council believes they can save about $100,000 per year. The current contract, still in the draft phase, would turn over four police department vehicles to the county. The sheriff’s office would then hire several additional deputies to patrol in the city of Jackson. Sheriff Roger Hawkinson has said he would give favor toward applying officers who would lose their jobs if the police department disbands.
Schmidt presented his argument opposing the dissolving to the council Tuesday night. On Monday, Dave and Beth were at the library to gather signatures for the petition.
“Nobody else was doing anything,” Dave stated. “I don’t know what good it will do, but we have to try.”
Beth contacted the city about a petition drive and said she was not told how many signatures were needed, just to “get as many as possible.”
“We have a lot of respect for the police department and Chief (Anthony) Legnani,” Dave explained. “We think they are doing phenomenal things for the community. We heard the council was talking about disbanding them, but we didn’t think they’d go ahead with it.”
Many of the people who stopped by the library Monday night to sign the petition expressed dismay and even anger over the way the city council seemed to push the issue through quietly and quickly.
“I’m very upset over the way they rammed this through,” said one woman, who preferred to remain anonymous. “People weren’t even aware of what was happening.”
Kathy Grunewald Tewes, whose father was on the Jackson Police Department in the 1950s and 60s, said she has an emotional connection to the department.
“I’ve lived the life those guys are, and I know what it took to build this department,” she stated. “I was irate when I found out about this and that it was going to happen right now.”
It is not that she thinks contracting service through the county wouldn’t work with the current sheriff, Tewes added, but she is concerned about the future.
Jim and Mary Jo Lutz stopped by to sign the petition and are both concerned about what a loss of a police department would mean to their town.
“I think we are a city with viable businesses and to dissolve the department would be a travesty,” Mary Jo stated. “They say they would save $100,000 the first year, yet said it will cost $25,000 to $35,000 to renovate the county’s law enforcement center, plus another $5,000 to transfer all the records. And at the same meeting they voted to disband our department, they voted to spend $85,000 to dig out a bayou.”
Jim said he doesn’t have a problem with the county’s law enforcement, but doesn’t want to lose the police department.
“They spend way more money on frivolous things as compared to something like this,” he stated. “If the department is costing too much money, you cut the budget, not the department.”
Dave and Beth plan to continue gathering signatures and will have a booth downtown during Franksalot, the city’s hot dog night.
Monday’s meeting garnered about 36 signatures for the city and 45 for the county. According to Beth, city residents can sign both the city and the county petition.
Anyone interested in signing the petition or finding out more information can contact Dave or Beth at (507) 847-4498.