Batesville city council votes to form own police department

Batesville city council votes to form own police department

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - History was made Wednesday night in Batesville as the city council voted to establish a city police department.

Since 1981, the county sheriff's department has provided police coverage for the city.

Though there are questions about the monumental change, the city felt that in the long run, a police department will benefit the city and the county.

It's been over thirty years since the City of Batesville has had their own police department. Instead, the city has paid $1.2 million annually to the Independence County Sheriff's Department for Metro Patrol.

However, in six months, that will no longer be the case. The Batesville City Council voted unanimously in favor of terminating their agreement with the sheriff's department.

"On average, we have about two and a half officers on the street," Alderman Chris Poole said. "We believe that for the same money, we can have about four and a half officers on the street."

A feasibility study on a Batesville Police Department began at the beginning of the year.

"This is something that has been in the planning for almost the last 12 months," Mayor Rick Elembaugh said.

However, council members said it's something that's been discussed for much longer.

"We've looked at this the whole four years I've been on the council," Poole said.

However, questions arose to how it might affect the now separate entities. For the city, council members feel it's only positive change.

"What we think we have is an opportunity to increase the number of officers that we see on the street for the same money that we already pay," Poole said.

With that money no longer going to the sheriff's department though, some feared services like SWAT and the Dive Team would go away as well.

"As long as we can all remain open to working together where appropriate and where it's been beneficial for us, we can also maintain some of those services and provide those as well," Poole said.

"I hope through all this process, eventually, we can stop pointing fingers and start working again together, the city and the county, to make this thing work better for everybody," Alderman Dr. Douglas Matthews said.

Mayor Elembaugh said work will begin after the first of the year to name an interim police chief and begin forming a department.

It will likely consist of 25 employees, including administration.

Though the department won't be up and running until July, per their agreement with the sheriff's department the city will temporarily lease a building for the department.

The council also passed a resolution to continue dispatch services for all of Independence County and local rural fire departments.

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