Are police back-up issues resolved?
Whether police back-up issues are resolved between the Union County Sheriff’s Department and the Liberty Town Police depends on who you ask.
Sheriff Eric Cantrell told the county commissioners Monday morning that he and Liberty Police Chief Barry Bryant had an agreement worked out under which town officers would only respond to county calls when they’re asked.
“Town officers went on their own and probably stayed longer than they should have,” Cantrell said of past practices. “They can still help and if they’re not needed, they are to return. If we’re on the wrong side of the county, they might go to a call first for us and then leave when we get there.”
If that’s the plan, no one had confirmed it with the Liberty Town Council on Monday, or with 911 dispatchers.
Town Council President Ross Keasling said Bryant didn’t say ‘yea or nay’ when he talked with him about the issue after lunch on Monday. At its last meeting, the town council made it clear it didn’t want town officers going on every county emergency call outside town limits.
911 dispatchers Sue Estridge and Kathy Cantrell attended the town council meeting to say county officers who are working solo need back-up. There is often no one else to call but a town officer, they said. The council’s position two weeks ago has made town officers afraid to provide assistance to the county department, dispatchers said.
Estridge said she’d reviewed call cards and every one where a town officer was called to help was a real incident that required back-up. The relocation of the Indiana State Police Post to Pendleton from Connersville has meant less state police presence here, she said.
“We’re the ones who make those phone calls. We call the state police, and they don’t know where Liberty is. Sometimes there’s no state police to send,” Estridge said.
“When they moved our state police out of Connersville, they really hurt us,” Kathy Cantrell said.
Kathy Cantrell said a former town officer was always eager to go on county calls.
“I know people who have issues with this, but there are more that have issues if the officers don’t respond,” Cantrell said.
County residents don’t pay taxes to support the Liberty Police Department, Keasling said. Liberty residents pay taxes to support both departments.
“The last thing we want is for anybody to get hurt,” Keasling said. “We want (standard operating procedures) and we want them followed. If they don’t follow them, it will be absolute that they won’t leave town.”
Councilman “Pete” Petro said the town shouldn’t be responsible for covering scheduling problems in the Sheriff’s Department.
“I would encourage the sheriff to work a few shifts himself,” Councilman Jim Hensley said.
Commissioner Tony Talbert said, at the commissioners’ meeting, the two departments must collaborate.
“It’s a small town and a small county,” Talbert said.
“We’re fine with it,” Eric Cantrell said of the new agreement at the commissioners’ meeting. “Barry and I worked it out.”
Union County has five deputies and the sheriff and several reserve officers. The sheriff and the chief deputy are both usually on duty during the day. Liberty has four officers and also has some reserves.
Butler County Deputy Ryan Jones provides police protection for College Corner, Ohio, and is also contracted with West College Corner to enforce its ordinances. Jones is deputized in Indiana and also responds to Union County calls when he’s available.
Dispatchers aren’t taking sides in this dispute, Estridge and Cantrell said, but they say they were speaking for all dispatchers on the need for officer back-up.
Estridge said she recently read about an officer on a complaint call who was shot and killed by the person who called in the complaint.
“We don’t send them out for just anything,” Estridge said. “You can’t imagine how you’d feel if that happened. We want everyone to come home safely.”
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