It begins: Town votes to ‘terminate every officer in its police department, including the police chief to ‘save money’

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POUND, VA – The town of Pound got rid of its entire police force following a Town Council vote on May 18th. According to the town manager, this decision was reached for “cost-saving reasons”.

According to court documents shared by the Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp, the Pound Town Council voted on May 18th to “terminate every officer in its police department,” which even included the Pound Police chief, Tony Baker.

The steps taken to dismantle the entire police force within the town took its first critical step on April 20th, when a 3-2 vote by the Pound Town Council saw Chief Baker and part time Officer Tim McAfee furloughed for 60 days.

Prior to those furloughs being enacted, four other officers from the police department had resigned.

When those furloughs were put into effect, the council had demanded that Chief Baker and Officer McAfee, along with the other officers who resigned, needed to return all vehicles, equipment and keys related to the police department by April 25th.

According to an email from Chief Baker to Town Manager Drew Mullins dated April 24th, the police chief informed the town manager that he would not be releasing the key to the police department’s evidence locker to any official:

“Accordingly, we are not relinquishing control of the evidence room or permitting non law enforcement officers to have access to information saved on police computers. We have discussed this issue with several persons, including legal counsel, and everyone has stated the obvious, which is, that we cannot voluntarily comply with this order.”

Town officials have demanded that the former police chief hand over the keys to the evidence locker by 4:00 p.m. on May 19th, which, according to a petition filed by Commonwealth Attorney Slemp, is something that the former police chief simply cannot do without violating the law in the process:

“The decision of the town council was made without recognition of the consequences of what happens. There’s evidence, there are drugs, narcotics, guns, money, seized items that are within the possession and control of the police department.”

“The code in Virginia is clear when a town like this creates a police department, the town is required to follow certain protocols and has the responsibility to secure evidence.”

Apparently, the Town Council has yet to appoint a new police chief, which the Commonwealth of Virginia says it is illegal for a non-law enforcement individual to be granted access to an evidence room.

This is due to it creating an “illegal break in the chain of custody and obstruct justice in a manner possibly punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor,” according to Commonwealth Attorney Slemp:

“The Town of Pound established a police department and therefore vested in it the powers and responsibilities of a law enforcement agency”

“As such, it must employ qualified personnel who are legally allowed to maintain and access the records of the Town’s law enforcement agency and any evidence.”

The Commonwealth attorney appeared before a judge on May 19th at the Wise County Circuit Court to ask the judge to halt the Town Council’s efforts to obtain the evidence room key until there is an appropriate person appointed that appeases Commonwealth of Virginia law:

“A lot of the evidence that’s stored there is in reference to pending cases pending before our court so we had to make sure and we’ve done that, to make sure the evidence is secured properly and to make sure there’s no break in the chain of custody that might influence or cause a problem in one of our cases.”

Commonwealth Attorney Slemp says that if the Town Council wants to make rash decisions such as eliminating an entire police force, then at a bare minimum they need to make sure that they are following the law in the process with regard to the fallout:

“If they’re going to make that decision, it’s very important that they follow the law and put steps in place, not abruptly in the middle of the night…but have some advanced planning to figure out who this stuff goes to and what the Virginia law requires in order for them to actually do it the right way.”

A review hearing is reportedly slated for May 25th to determine next steps for the matter.

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In other reports regarding police departments undergoing  various cuts, the city of Seattle has lost nearly 20% of its police force following the protests in 2020 and budget cuts. 

Here’s that previous report. 

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SEATTLE, WA – Budget cuts and months of anti-police protests and rioting have resulted in a “staffing crisis” as nearly 20 percent of the Seattle Police Department resigned in the past year and a half, according to the police chief.

More than 260 officers have quit the force since the beginning of last year.

Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz said that stress on officers dealing with Black Lives Matter and Antifa rioters has been compounded by city leaders’ decision to surrender a police precinct to rioters while allowing the mob, often armed, occupy and entire neighborhood for a month.

Officer Clayton Powell, a black officer, has served Seattle Police Department for 27 years. He had a goal of remaining with the department for 30 years, but had decided to retire early because of the situation in Seattle and other cities and towns across the nation:

“The support that we had in my generation of policing is no longer there.”

Officer Powell said that city leaders surrendered to the rioters, and police had to pay the daily price. He said officers, including himself, were targeted with rocks, bottles, cinder blocks, and other items thrown at them, and they had to “stand there and take it”:

“When you see businesses get destroyed and families lose their livelihood because of that destruction and we can’t do anything about it. We’re not allowed to intercede.”

Protests and riots led by Black Lives Matter and Antifa members erupted in Seattle following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day 2020.  During the months of violent clashes between protesters and police, Seattle’s homicide rate exploded.

According to end-of-year crime statistics released by the police department, 2020 experienced the highest homicide rate in over two decades. Crime data shows that 52 homicides occurred in 2020 compared to 35 in 2019, an increase of 48.57%.

Chief Diaz called the situation unacceptable:

“We cannot tolerate this level of violence. I’m not going to go into the multiple theories I’m aware of for why we and other cities had such a large one-year increase.

“There’s no one clear explanation. But I do know the department is working to decrease the violence.”

Chief Diaz said he had never seen the police department as undermanned as it is today:

“We are at record lows in the city right now, I have about 1,080 deployable officers. This is the lowest I’ve seen our department.”

The Chief called the situation a “staffing crisis’”

Exit interviews with departing officers show that many are leaving to work in other cities or for positions in the private sector. Other officers, like Powell, chose to take early retirement.

Officers in the interviews pointed blame at lack of support from city leaders, and a general anti-police sentiment in the city.

Adding to the department’s low morale is a looming budget cut. The Seattle City Council is considering a new cut of $2.8 million to the department’s budget, adding to a reduction in funding last year. Mayor Jenny Durkan warned council against the cuts in a statement issued from her office:

“Despite an increased focus on recruitment and retention, the Seattle Police Department continues to lose sworn officers at a record pace due to ongoing budget uncertainty,” a spokesperson for Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday.

“Based on exit interviews, we know the Council’s threats of continued layoffs or cuts are having a direct impact on decisions to leave the department. Mayor Durkan continues to caution City Council against making additional one-time cuts without addressing hiring and retention of officers, especially diverse officers, to respond to the highest priority calls.”

The Mayor’s Office issued a statement saying that residents’ safety relies on having the officers available to respond to emergencies:

“Community safety means that we have officers able to respond to 911 calls with more civilian responses, more crisis responses, and more alternatives. Based on exit interviews, we know the Council’s threats of continued layoffs or cuts are having a direct impact on decisions to leave the department.

“Mayor Durkan continues to caution City Council against making additional one-time cuts without addressing hiring and retention of officers, especially diverse officers, to respond to the highest priority calls.”

Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan said that council praised the Seattle Police Department until George Floyd’s death, and then “these same politicians couldn’t run away from us faster”:

“They (council) will decimate numbers to fill the uniforms to protect our citizens, and to what gain, if any? What’s the end game?

“I don’t see how that’s a recipe for our communities to feel protected.”

The staffing crisis in Seattle is being repeated across the nation as left-wing groups and Democratic leaders continue to express anti-police rhetoric.

Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the state’s largest police union, said law enforcement has become an undesirable job because of the rhetoric being spread:

“Every action has a reaction. When you vilify every police officer for every bad police officer’s decision, (people) don’t want to take this job anymore.

“It’s been a very trying and difficult time to put on the badge every day. There’s a recruiting crisis.”

Jack Rinchich, president of the 4,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police, said that veteran officers are taking retirement early rather than remain on the job without support:

“There’s no doubt in my mind that what’s transpiring in our nation today is contributing to the lack of retention and the difficulty in hiring new officers. A lot of cops right now in view of the environment are saying, ‘Hey, I’ve gone 20, 30 years without being sued, shot, or divorced. I’m going to get out while I have an opportunity.’”

Haverford Township Police Chief John Viola, who also serves as president of the Delaware County Police Chiefs Association in Pennsylvania, said departments are struggling to recruit new officers. He said some departments are paying for officers to attend the police academy, waiving application fees, and taking other steps to try to bring in new officers.

Chief Viola said that people do not want to be police officer’s in today’s environment:

”It’s something that all departments have recognized as something that’s getting harder and harder.

“People don’t want to be police anymore. It’s a good job, and good-paying job, but when you look at national news every day, people just don’t want to be officers.”

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