Independence County likely solves police patrol problems

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – The Independence County Sheriff's Department has faced a dilemma about where to place its officers on patrols recently, and, in turn, the City of Batesville feels that its police protection has been stretched too thin.

"The City of Batesville was actually funding an officer to work in the county, and I can understand their concerns on that," Sheriff Steve Jeffery said. "If they are paying for that officer, then that officer should work in the city."

The City of Batesville began contracting out sheriff's deputies 30 years ago to replace its own police force. The city council recently expressed concern that the sheriff's department overstepped the interlocal agreement to share police resources. The Independence County Quorum Court, however, stepped in to ease some concern.

"Eight-hour schedule, 12-hour schedule, 16-hour schedule – we're still down one county deputy," Jeffery said.

The sheriff's department has been short one deputy for county patrol. An officer paid by the City of Batesville has filled that position, but many claim that's unfair.

"We asked for two additional county deputy slots in our budget this year," Jeffery said. "At that time, the county was not able to find the funding for those positions, and they were turned down."

The sheriff had no choice but to use the Batesville metro officer, as the county has been strapped for cash. On Monday night, however, the Quorum Court announced that it had found the $90,000 to pay for the new positions.

"It's a win-win for both the city and the county," Jeffery said.

He added that the county's decision will likely resolve most of the problems, and Batesville Mayor Rick Elumbaugh agrees. The board that governs the interlocal agreement, however, will revisit any issues at a later date, but much of the tension seems to have subsided.

"I believe we can together, sign a new agreement and go on with law enforcement," Jeffery concluded.

The sheriff will post openings for the two new deputy positions soon. He hopes to have someone hired within a few weeks. He is still unsure, though, when the city and county will meet again to iron out the interlocal agreement.

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