The People's Tribune

Vandalia Considering Disbanding Police Department

Rumors are quickly surrounding the City of Vandalia and the fate of their police department. Many city residents are concerned about whether the city administration and council are planning to disband the city police.

Last week, a source wishing to remain anonymous due to ties within the community, contacted The People’s Tribune with information stating city officials were considering closing the department and having the Audrain County Sheriff’s Department handle the city’s law enforcement issues.

The People’s Tribune was not able to verify the information by press deadline.

Both city administrator Darren Berry and Mayor Ralph Kuda were contacted by The People’s Tribune but did not return a phone call or email as of this writing.

The news of the possible decision has started circulating on Facebook after a post from a concerned resident leaked the possibility that the city council and administration intended to disband the Police Department.

As of this writing, the social media post has garnished numerous comments and shares. The response so far has been overwhelmingly negative towards the idea.

While the Vandalia city administrator and mayor were unavailable for comments, the Audrain County Sheriff, Matt Oller joined the social media conversation.  

“Seems no one here is asking the right questions. While I can truly appreciate the concerns, I don’t think you have the whole picture,” Sheriff Oller commented.

He continued by stating the city had contacted him and county commission asking for information and costs to contract out the Sheriff’s department. According to Sheriff Oller, Vandalia officials cited personnel, recruiting, and retaining issues were the factors behind seeking alternate policing options.

Residents and people working in the city have expressed their concern about response times should the Audrain County Sheriff’s Department take over responsibility for policing Vandalia.

“I told both what it would take personnel wise, equipment wise and money wise for me to assign at least 1 Sheriff’s Deputy to the city 24/7,” Sheriff Oller continued. “Sometimes there will be more than one, but at least one in the city 24/7/365.”

Sheriff Oller discussed how the practice of contracting outside police services was not uncommon in Missouri and throughout the country.

“There are numerous cities, many larger than Vandalia, across Missouri that contract police services with county agencies. Fenton is the largest I know of, and they’ve been doing this successfully for 25+ years.”

The Tribune was not able to pull statistics from Fenton by the press deadline.

The Audrain County Sheriff also mentioned how smaller communities have recruitment and retaining issues with how much they can budget towards competitive wages for police officers.

“This is a highly competitive profession and places that can’t pay well will never be able to recruit and retain officers, causing serious manpower issues. In fact, in the past week, there have been 2 nights that you had no one working for VPD. My office was notified and Patrol Deputies were advised accordingly and picked up that void. The current climate will not make this better any time soon.”

He continued by discussing the affordability, cost, and services the city would gain by

contracting the Sheriff’s Department.

“Based on what I know of the city’s budget and what it would cost to contract with the county, it would save them money with no decrease in service. As far as cost, that’s something that’s been negotiated by the City and County Commission. I merely stand ready to fulfill the services. The money portion isn’t my issue.”

“In reality, it makes no difference to me either way if the city decides to do this or they continue to try to somehow maintain their own PD, but in the interest of the truth, don’t be led into thinking that there will be no police service in town,” Sheriff Oller stated. “That’s simply not correct.”

The 2010 census recorded Vandalia’s population at 3,899 although that number included around 2,000 prisoners currently incarcerated at WERDCC.

Vandalia citizens are already seeking answers to why the city is discussing this option, when will it take effect, and why representatives have remained so quiet on the issue.

Residents are encouraged to attend the August 11th City Council meeting at 5:30 PM at the Lange Building.

The People’s Tribune will continue to report as more information becomes available.

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