Region 8 police chief fired, effective Jan. 2012

EARLE, AR (KAIT) – The Earle city council has decided to eliminate positions within the police force due to a $150,000 city budget shortfall.

Thursday night the city council approved the decision to cut the police chief and assistant police chief positions and hire a captain to manage day-to-day operations. The city council estimates the cuts will save the city $36,000.

The talk of the day at Young's Grocery in Earle was the city council's decision to eliminate the police force positions. "We've always had one here and they need to do other things to keep him," said Roy Sample who has lived in Earle for about 50 years.

According to the 2000 census, 3,036 people lived in Earle Arkansas. The 2010 census showed a decrease, with the city's population at 2,414 people. "So now we have funding that is different than what it was before," said police commissioner Tony Wells.

The decreased population resulted in $150,000 less in federal funding, according to the city council. Mayor Otis Davis and the city council estimate the cutbacks will save the city $36,000.

The cutbacks are effective January 1, 2012, unless Mayor Davis vetoes the decision.

Chief Walter Voyles said he found out he was losing his job when everyone else did. "Last Wednesday, I received a call from my sister who was reading the paper and she asked me why I didn't tell her that I was going to be out of job at the beginning of the year."

Voyles and Wells said if the city council needs to figure out where to make cuts in the city budget, they should look in the mirror. "We have eight council members in a city of 2,500 and we've got much larger cities with less council members than we have," said Wells.

"If the council would look at its own budget and realize that we could save more money by having less council members, we could keep the police chief and all the money that we pay him."

The residents who agreed to talk to Region 8 News on and off camera agree that a decrease in council members and redistricting of the city's wards should happen before cuts to the police force. "We need that a lot more than we do a councilperson," said Sample.

Police commissioner Wells is planning a Citizens Action Rally in front of the Earle city hall tomorrow at 1 p.m. in hopes of getting Mayor Davis to reverse the decision.

Region 8 News contacted Mayor Davis and the city council but they could not be reached for comment.

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