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City Of Piedmont Considers Cutting Police Force To Save Money

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Piedmont City Manager Jim Crosby says the police department is largest expense of the city's budget, which totals about $607,252.48. Crosby said cutting the police department's eight officers would save the city about $300,000 a year. Piedmont City Manager Jim Crosby says the police department is largest expense of the city's budget, which totals about $607,252.48. Crosby said cutting the police department's eight officers would save the city about $300,000 a year.
PIEDMONT, Oklahoma -

Piedmont Police officers patrolling the streets of the city could soon be a thing of the past. The city is considering cutting its entire force to save money.

The city's mayor led a press conference with the Canadian County Sheriff's Office Friday morning. Piedmont officials say they've been cuffed with a tight budget. So much so that they're considering getting rid of the police department to save hundreds of thousands of dollars, but not everyone agrees.

"We think we've got a top-notch police department. What we're strictly looking at is funding and another funding source to help with our roads," said Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson. "We're looking at every available opportunity to seek funding in a difficult budget year."

Piedmont City Manager Jim Crosby says the police department is largest expense of the city's budget, which totals about $607,252.48. Crosby said cutting the police department's eight officers would save the city about $300,000 a year. The city would then sign a contract with the Canadian County Sheriff's Office and use its eight deputies.

"It's just a proposal to see if the Sheriff's office could do it cheaper and offer greater coverage," Crosby said.

Canadian County Undersheriff Chris West said if Piedmont decides to enter a contract with the county, the Sheriff's office would offer a host of resources at no additional charge to the city, including a unit dedicated to investigations, computer crimes, collisions, narcotics and school truancy.

"We would transfer the 911 service to the sheriff's office, so that we're in direct communications with our people working here in our Piedmont Divisions and they'll go straight out to the calls," West said.

"I think it's going to be the same. We would have deputies assigned right here in the city of Piedmont. They're not going to be all over the county. They're going to be right here in the city and will be quick to respond."

But some Piedmont Police officers say the numbers don't add up and think the city is retaliating after officers joined a union earlier this year.

"It's kind of knocking them down a little bit. Any time your job is on the line, you're going to get a little upset," said Phillip Wise, Executive Director of The Fraternal Order of Peace Labor Counsel.

"The FOP and the City of Piedmont are currently in negotiations for a contract for the police department and then they just entered into contract negotiations with the sheriff's department. So I don't understand where that's going. The county's going to cost them more."

Wise says one mile of road repaired in Piedmont is going to cost the city about $1 million dollars.

"So what's saving this $300,000 really going to fix?" asked Wise.

Wise also says the city would be in jeopardy if the county gets a new sheriff and then decides one day not to renew Piedmont's contract. Piedmont residents are split on the issue.

"Nothing personal against the police department, it's a matter of services and money," said Al Ridgely, a Piedmont resident for 31 years, who says the city could desperately use the money to fix the beat-up roads. "First of all you're looking at rural community. The safety of this town is dictated by the fact that almost everyone in this town is armed. So it's not the police keeping the crime rate low here."

Donya Hau was raised in Piedmont and said the city is going to lose out on personalized service from officers in their neighborhoods and school if they're cut.

"I think that there are other ways to look at the budget to save money, not eliminating our police officers," Hau said. "I feel like they were thrown under the bus. So I think that's why we're so protective and we're fighting for them because they are our family."

The city will decide if they'll move forward with the proposal at a special study session meeting held at City Hall at 6 p.m. on September 16.

West said if the Piedmont Police Department is eliminated, the officers will have top consideration for jobs with the Sheriff's Office.

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