Town of Alexandria Seeks Police Officers

August 23, 2006
Dwayne Page

The Alexandria Mayor and Board of Aldermen is pledging to keep the Police Department operating as soon as new employees are hired.

The council met Tuesday night and formally accepted the resignations of Police Chief Jim Baker, Sergeant Tim Hearn, and Officer Josh King, who will be leaving this week.

When Alderman James Keyes asked Chief Baker why the entire three member department is resigning at the same time, he responded by saying, \"I can't speak for the others, but I promised this town I'd do the best job I can, but it's come to the point to where I can't do it anymore. Part of it is because of the budget and not being able to run the department myself without micro-management.\"

The Chief, officers, and some residents and business persons of the town are apparently upset that the city, because of budget constraints, has eliminated the day shift and assigned the officers to work nights.

Alderman Charles Griffith, during Tuesday night's meeting, said \"We can't afford a day shift and a night shift because of the budget. I think we need more coverage at night.\"

Griffith says most of the crime threat, such as burglaries, vandalism's, etc, is greater at night than the day time, and the town could rely more on county deputies to come to the city's aid during the day, if needed.

However a couple of pharmacy and bank employees, who attended Tuesday night's meeting, expressed their concerns that if they should need a law enforcement officer during the day time, they may have to wait 30 to 45 minutes for a county deputy to arrive, if there is no city officer on duty.

Renee Hale, an employee of F.Z.Webb & Sons Pharmacy in Alexandria, addressed the council. \"If we have a forged prescription come in, we have to wait for the county (deputies) or if we were to be robbed, we'd have to wait. It's real comforting to know that we have somebody down here (city officers) that could back us up at our own back door.\"

Both Mayor David Cripps and Alderman Sarah Walker agreed that day shift officers are needed, if the city can afford them, but Walker says thanks to the overspending of a prior administration, the city was left in a deep financial hole.\"When we came in here (took office), we had to cut the employees back to four days a week. The prior administration (prior to September 2005) had spent $244,000 on payroll in one year and with matching funds it was about $260,000. So we had to cut in order to survive. We're trying to survive. That's all we're trying to do. We're not trying to be mean to anyone.\"

In the meantime, Mayor Cripps says city officials will be trying to resolve the problem. \" We're going to try our best to get this worked out. I'll agree we need police protection 100% more in the day time than at night. We'll be interviewing people. We'll try to have a police force back as soon as possible and we're going to try to have the best one we can have. We're a small town, we've got a small budget, and we're going to do the best we can do. We'll get this matter resolved as soon as possible.\"

In other business, the council appointed Cripps as Mayor until the next city election in September, 2007. At that time, someone will be elected mayor to fill the remainder of former Mayor Clara Lee Vantrease's unexpired term, which ends in 2009. Vantrease recently resigned

Alderman Roy Scott recently resigned and Cripps, by taking on the mayor position, had to give up his seat as alderman. To fill those two vacancies, the council Tuesday night appointed Jim York and former Alderman Jimmy Mullinax.

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