Franklin County Sheriff opposes idea of new police department

FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS 10) - The Franklin County Board of Supervisors is considering whether to establish a new police department in the county.

Sheriff Bill Overton says he does not support the plan and thinks it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Supervisors insist it has nothing to do with the quality of service from the Sheriff's Office.

The Board says it simply wants to consider ways to better serve the county's growing population, but Overton says this came to him and his deputies as a surprise, and they aren't happy about it.

Several members of the Sheriff's Department angrily addressed the Board Tuesday.

They're concerned about a newly proposed police force that would pull more than $1.4 million away from their Sheriff's Department.

"When you start talking about budget cuts and all of a sudden County Police, my people are saying what is going on here? Are we being supported by the board?" said Overton.

Overton says establishing the new office would be a waste of taxpayer dollars, especially when his force is in need of funding.

"Areas that we need more manpower haven't seen it, haven't seen it in several years, but now all of a sudden you're going to start a Police Department. Hey, look, spend less money, help sure up giving us the support and the resources we need to continue to do the great job that I know the men and women who are serving are doing," said Overton.

Supervisor Ronnie Thompson says he recognizes that great job more than anyone, but it's not about the quality of service, it's about making sure the whole county is covered, and he says it's not as expensive as the Sheriff thinks.

"You take the cars. We already own the cars. All you do is take the star off, you put a badge on it. You take Sheriff's Office off, you put Police Department on it. You've already got the dispatchers and dispatch center. My thinking about it, the deputies have dark black pants now, you just get a different color shirt. I mean it's not as astronomical as you might think," said Thompson.

If the county does decide it wants a police force in addition to the Sheriff's Office, it would ultimately go before voters in the county.

Overton says he hopes they can reach a resolution before that happens.

"It's obvious they've got some concerns. I can't sit here and specifically say what all of those concerns are, but I'm going to sit down and talk with them about it. I just don't think up and trying to decide on having a County Police is the way to go," said Overton.

Overton says if the county was to put the decision to a vote, he's confident people would support his office as the sole law enforcement agency necessary in the county.

Supervisors will receive more information about the cost of establishing the new department at their next meeting in two weeks.

They have to make their decision before August 19th.